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May 11, 2004

'Eating a Meal' most common driver distraction

Seattle, Washington - A survey of 600 drivers in Washington state by PEMCO Insurance found that 'eating a meal' was the most common distracting activity and 'reading a newspaper or book' was considered to be the most dangerous driver distracting activity.

Sixty-five percent of drivers stated they eat while driving, and fifty-eight percent acknowledged they talk on a cell phone while driving. Drivers also thought both the activities were unsafe, along with several other common distracted driving activities.

The poll asked drivers to rate the danger of these common distracted driving activities. Drivers rated each activity on a scale from one to five, with one being "completely safe" and five being "very dangerous."

  Distracted Driving Activity         Percentage of Drivers   Average Driver
                                     Admitting Driving While   Danger Rating
  Eating a Meal                               65%                  3.8
  Talking on a Cell Phone                     58%                  4.0
  Steering with Legs and No Hands
   on Wheel                                   25%                  4.7
  Applying Makeup or Shaving                  14%                  4.6
  Reading a Newspaper or Book                  6%                  4.9
  Writing a Text Message                       3%                  4.8

                                                         1 = Completely Safe
                                                         5 = Very Dangerous

"We found that when drivers eat food or call a friend, they do so despite thinking it's dangerous," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO Insurance spokesperson. "Our goal is to help drivers understand that when they do that, they're going against their better judgment."

The poll showed drivers admit to other distracting activities in varying amounts, including applying makeup or shaving, reading a newspaper or book, steering with their legs and writing a text message.

Drivers thought reading a newspaper or book while driving was the most-dangerous distracted driving activity, with drivers rating it a 4.9 out of 5 on the danger scale. Drivers also felt that writing a text message while driving was particularly dangerous, rating it a 4.8.

The poll showed a significant trend: the more drivers admitted to performing a distracting activity, the less dangerous they saw the activity.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that driver distraction contributes to between 20 and 30 percent of all crashes.

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