Study: Texting and driving common among most teens

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on September 26, 2012 at 9:14 AM

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Distracted driving accounted for more than one-fifth of fatal crashes in King County over a four year period. The Washington State Patrol is teaming up with SeaTac Police and King County Emergency Medical Services to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving – particularly cell phone use behind the wheel.

The new emphasis is starting as kids are settled back in to school, meaning more kids in crosswalks and walking on the roadside.

Distracted driver-involved crashes accounted for 21 percent of all fatal crashes in King County between 2006 and 2010, according to the Washington state Traffic Commission (WTC)

The distraction that has received the most attention in recent years is texting. The WTC says those who text and drive are six times more likely to be in an accident than a drunk driver. The commission says using a cell phone while driving – whether it’s handheld or hands-free -- delays a driver's reaction as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of 0.08; a driver who is texting is impaired similar to a BAC of 0.16, which is double the legal limit.

It is illegal to text while driving in Washington state. It’s also illegal to use your cell phone without a hands-free device. The state patrol says some people haven’t gotten the message. Many of those have gotten the message, but ignore it, do their best to hide the fact they are breaking the law.

“We still see a lot of folks really trying to hide their texting,” said Trooper Keith Leary, who says it’s often obvious to spot texting drivers. “They’re physically taking their attention off the road.”

To help push the point home, AT&T is asking people Wednesday to join it’s “It Can Wait” campaign to stop texting and driving. A recent survey by the wireless company found that 97 percent of teens know that texting and driving is dangerous, but 75 percent said texting while driving is common among their friends.

Perhaps part of that is the expectation that if they text somebody, they will get an immediate response. Nearly 90 percent said they expect a reply to a text or email within five minutes. 77 percent also said their parents text while driving.

The National Safety Council says more than 100,000 crashes each year involve someone who is texting.

Story compiled by KING 5's Travis Pittman

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