Motorists along the Tualatin Valley Highway (Highway 8) in the Hillsboro-Aloha area may have seen billboards promoting a safety message from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO).

Two billboards — one located on Highway 8 at 214th Avenue and the other at Highway 8 at 174th Avenue — show a smashed car with the words “Texts Cause Wrecks” in bold HILLSBORO TRIBUNE PHOTO: DOUG BURKHARDT - To help create awareness of the fact that texting while driving causes accidents, the Washington County Sheriffs Office sponsored this huge billboard near the intersection of Tualatin Valley Highway and 214th Avenue.

The billboards were donated for the campaign by Total Outdoor, an advertising business with offices in Seattle, Chicago and New York.

The “Texts Cause Wrecks” billboards are intended to remind motorists that texting while driving is a leading cause of crashes. About 82 percent of young adult drivers admit they have read a text message while driving, according to a national survey conducted by the Ad Council, a national nonprofit that produces public service announcements.

For too many drivers, responding to text alerts is a reflex, so WCSO is stressing the need to remove the stimulus or find other ways to avoid the “instant answer” habit.

Of all drivers younger than 20 who are involved in fatal crashes, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicated that 16 percent were reported to have been distracted while driving, and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver.

Washington County deputies believe the numbers to be even higher than that because the cause of crashes is not reliably reported.

Studies demonstrated that reading a single text message removes a driver’s attention from the road for between three and six seconds. After just three seconds at 30 to 55 mph, a vehicle will travel 131 to 241 feet.

Those seconds can be the difference between having time to brake and a potentially fatal collision.

The goal of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office is to educate drivers about the dangers of texting and driving.

“Ultimately, we hope to save lives,” explained WCSO Sgt. Bob Ray. “Everyone, whether parents, friends, teachers or co-workers, can influence this social issue.”

“Texts Cause Wrecks” is the first in a planned series of billboards by WCSO.

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