Distracted Driving Fact Sheet


Distracted Driving Increases Crash Risk

  • In Washington, 30% of crash fatalities are due to distracted driving.

  • Fatalities from distracted driving are increasing. There was a 29% increase in traffic fatalities related to distracted driving from 2013 to 2017.

  • Talking on a cell phone increases the risk of crashing by three times. Entering text into a cell phone can increase crash risk by up to 23 times.

  • Cell phone use causes what experts refer to as “inattention blindness.” The brain cannot perform two tasks at once, and is unable to pay attention to both cell phone use and the driving environment.

  • It takes a driver nearly 30 seconds to refocus on the road after using a cell phone – in which time, a car moving at 25 mph can travel the length of three football fields, or 300 yards.

Hand-Held Cell Phone Use Down while

Other Distractions Increase

  • In 2018, there was a 40% decrease in the number of drivers observed holding a cell phone, from 5.7% in 2017 to 3.4%.

  • However, there was an increase in driver engaged in “other distracting behavior,” such as eating, tuning a radio, or attending to pets or children.

The Electronics DUI (E-DUI) Law

  • Washington’s distracted driving law is very clear – no hand-held cell phone use while driving.

    • Even when stopped in traffic or at a traffic light.

    • No typing messages or accessing information.

    • No watching videos or using cameras.

  • You can use your device if you are:

    • Hands-free (for example, using a Bluetooth) and can start use by a single touch or swipe without holding the phone.

    • Parked or out of the flow of traffic

    • Starting your GPS or music before you drive

    • Contacting emergency services

  • The law covers other distracting behaviors other than hand-held cell phone use, in a category called “dangerously distracted.”

    • Dangerously distracted refers to someone who engages in any activity not related to the operation of their motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with its safe operation.

  • First-time violators are subject to a $136 fine. Second violations within five years and the fine increases to $272. Violations will be reported to a driver’s insurance company.

  • Law enforcement officers have written nearly 1,500 Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) tickets each month since the new law began in July 2017.

County Highlights

According to WTSC’s “Distracted Driving in Washington State, 2016-2018” report, several counties experienced significant decreases in distracted driving:

  • King County distracted driving rates decreased from 10.2% to 7.0%

  • Kitsap County experienced the most significant decreases in distracted driving rates starting at 20.5% in 2016, declining to 12.6% in 2017, and dropping to 4.0% in 2018.

  • Pierce County also achieved multiple year decreases in distracted driving rates starting at 18.4% in 2016, declining to 14.4% in 2017, and dropping to 5.8%

  • in 2018.

  • Thurston County distracted driving rates decreased from 11.0% to 4.2%.

  • Whatcom County’s distracted driving rate decreased to 3.7%in 2018 compared to 8.8% in 2016.