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texting-1Even though texting or calling on a phone while driving is illegal in Washington, people continue to do so.

A new study of nearly 8,000 motorists showed that about eight percent of drivers use an electronic device behind the wheel, with about half of those texting.

The Seattle Times reported on the study that was conducted by University of Washington professor Beth Ebel, who is also a trauma doctor in the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Harborview Medical Center.

Ebel looked at 7,800 drivers across six counties in Washington and found 8.1 percent of them distracted by their own technology. She told the Seattle Times that the 8.1 percent number is higher than expected.

With 55 percent of cell phone owners now using a smartphone, you’d imagine this problem continuing or even becoming worse due to the plethora of apps that allow you to check directions, respond to email or surf social media streams from a smartphone.

Washington’s Department of Licensing notes that driving while texting is the equivalent, in terms of distraction, to someone with a 0.16 blood-alcohol level.

Talking on a handheld cell phone is banned in 12 states, while texting is banned in 41 states. Both laws are active in Washington, which was the first state to ban text messaging while driving back in 2007.

You can land a $124 fine in Washington if found driving distracted because of your cell phone. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, use of wireless devices contributed to 1,300 crashes from 2006 to 2010. So far this year, more than 700,000 crashes involved drivers texting or calling.

GeekWire columnist Monica Guzman explored the problem last year in this popular post.

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