By Susan Gilmore
SEATTLE Most Washington drivers wouldn't dream of shaving
while behind the wheel of a car.
But eating a meal is another matter.
While more than a third of the drivers polled
in a statewide survey say eating while driving is very dangerous,
two-thirds say they have done it anyway.
Those are among the findings of a newly released
poll of driver distractions sponsored by Pemco Insurance.
Conducted in December, the poll has a margin of error of four
"The evidence is clear. Distractions lead
to crashes," said Jon Osterberg, a Pemco spokesman. "The
most dangerous activity is reaching for things and taking
your eyes off the road."
What's happened, said Osterberg, is that as
cars accumulate more gear that distracts drivers, accidents
increase. A big item is CD players, because drivers often
fiddle with them and pick up dropped CDs, looking away from
The poll looked at five activities considered
distractions behind the wheel: applying makeup or shaving,
eating a meal, talking on a cellphone, reading a newspaper
or book, driving with your legs and no hands on the wheel,
and writing a text message on a cellphone.
While the activities are not outlawed while
driving, the State Patrol says all of them can get you a ticket,
based on an officer's discretion. For example, if you're reading
a book and that causes you to swerve, or if an officer determines
that your distracted driving is putting yourself or other
drivers in danger, you can be ticketed.
The 600 Washington residents surveyed by Market
Trends were asked how dangerous they considered the activities
and whether they had done them.
Considered most dangerous was reading while
driving; 90 percent of those surveyed said it was very dangerous.
Only 6 percent of the drivers said they had ever done it.
That was followed by writing a text message
on a cellphone while behind the wheel of a car. The poll found
87 percent said it was very dangerous and just 3 percent said
they had done it.
As for talking on a cellphone, 40 percent said it was very
dangerous; 58 percent said they had done it.
An earlier poll taken by Pemco found that more
men than women use cellphones on the road and that women are
more likely to see it as very dangerous.
"We found that when drivers eat food or
call a friend, they do so despite thinking it's dangerous,"
Osterberg said. "Our goal is to help drivers understand
that when they do that, they're going against their better
Osterberg, whose company insures 310,000 drivers
in Washington state, said Pemco sponsored the poll to look
at optional and preventable activities that drivers do while
behind the wheel.
The poll also found: