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Do you text while you drive? You're not alone.

Paula Wissel

Have you ever been tempted to respond to a text message while you’re behind the wheel?

Texting while driving is illegal in Washington state, but the practice is common enough that the state plans to launch a full scale campaign against it along the lines of the “Click it or Ticket” campaign that promotes seat belt use.

Jonna VanDyke, spokeswoman for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, says even drivers who should know better often feel compelled to respond to a text thinking maybe it’s my boss, or my kid, or think "the person will get mad at me if I don't respond right away."

VanDyke warns that typing into a phone while you’re driving increases your risk of crashing by 24 times.    

"You know you think about why that is. You’re taking your eyes off the road. You're taking your mind off your driving or the road ahead of you and you're taking at least one hand off the wheel and, in some cases, two hands off the wheel," VanDyke said.

The state, which has applied for and is likely to get federal transportation dollars to pay for an anti-texting campaign, plans to use the same “click it or ticket” kind of messages used in those buckle-up ads. 

In other  words, if you text while driving you could get a ticket.

One problem Washington has is that the fine for texting and driving remains at $124 whether it’s your first or one-hundredth offense.

Growing interest in keeping drivers from texting

The state anti-texting campaign comes on the heels of other efforts, including a video campaign launched in Seattle by Verizon Wireless and the Seattle Seahawks. It features quarterback Russell Wilson.

Distracted driving seems to be worse when people have smart phones rather than basic cell phones. As reported in GeekWire today, once you get a smart phone, the chance you'll do something unsafe behind the wheel goes up dramatically.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.
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