'U Text. U Pay': Crackdown on distracted driving in Wash. state

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - The Washington's Traffic Safety Commission says officers across the state will be cracking down on distracted driving between Thursday and next Tuesday as part of a national enforcement campaign.

The commission says more than 100 law enforcement agencies throughout the state will target drivers who are talking on hand-held cell phones, texting or otherwise not paying attention to the road.

The slogan for the campaign is "U Drive. U Text. U Pay."

According to a recent study by the University of Washington, more than 8 percent of drivers in Washington state are distracted by electronic devices, including many who are actively texting on the roadway.

Researchers compiled their numbers after observing 7,800 motorists at intersections in six counties. The study found that nearly half of drivers using electronic devices were observed texting.

Dr. Beth Ebel, the study's principal investigator, said the findings suggest distracted driving is more common than previously thought. She was surprised by how many were taking their eyes off the road to text.

"The risk of crash with texting is so high," Ebel said. "It really makes you impaired."

Ebel noted that other studies have shown that texting while driving increases the risk of crash dramatically, similar to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 percent.

Drivers who text while driving in Washington state could face a $124 fine.