Washington drivers’ use of cell phones higher than expected: study

Seattle – Driving while using cell phones or other electronic devices may be more prevalent in Washington state than experts originally believed, according to preliminary data from the University of Washington.

Researchers from the university’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center observed 7,800 drivers at various intersections in six Washington counties and found that more than 8 percent of drivers were observed using electronic devices behind the wheel, a center press release states.

Among the observed distracted drivers, 45 percent were texting. Nearly as many were talking on a handheld phone and, of those, half were holding the device near or under the steering wheel – a “high-risk” behavior that diverts a driver’s attention from the road, according to the press release.

The preliminary findings are part of a larger study planned to be released later this year on the effectiveness of enforcement on discouraging drivers in the state from using distracted devices behind the wheel.