Talking Points


These materials will help you get up to speed about core issues related to Target Zero.

This is intended as an external informational resource with easily accessible key facts.  The Fact Sheet would be provided to external audiences and should be made available on the   Information about changes to the cell phone law should also be added here.

Distracted Driving Needs Your Attention



"71 percent of distracted drivers are using their cell phones while driving, the most dangerous type of distraction."

  • According to a first-ever observational study of distracted driving, conducted in Washington by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), 71 percent of distracted drivers are using their phones while operating their vehicles, the riskiest type of distraction.
  • Statewide, the overall distraction rate is 9.2 percent, with some counties having distraction rates as high as 20 percent.
  • Other distractions observed included behaviors such as eating, tuning a radio and attending to pets or children.

Distracted driving fatalities increasing in Washington

  • Distracted driving fatalities in Washington increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015.

Cell phone use while driving the riskiest type of behavior

  • Cell phone use is a major contributing factor for fatalities and crash risk.  Research shows that cell phone use is more highly predictive of poor driving performance than any other type of distraction and increases crash risk by almost three times (Ferdinand and Menachemi 2014, Elvik, 2011).  Additionally:

o   26 percent of crashes involve phone distraction.

o   Drivers are 23 times more likely to crash when entering information into a phone.

  •  The reason phones create a higher crash risk for drivers is because of the way they distract.  Phones are not just a physical or visual distraction, like eating food or changing a radio station; they take our minds away from the task of driving by connecting us to complex social and informational exchanges with others.  This is called “inattention blindness.”
  • The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety research has shown that test subjects need up to 27 seconds to refocus on the road after using a cell phone while driving.  A car moving at 25 mph can travel up to 998 feet in that timeframe, about the length of three football fields.
  • A 2014 University of Washington study concluded that drivers who were cited for texting, talking on a phone, or inattentive driving were much more likely to be involved in a police-reported crash than drivers who did not receive citations.

Hands-Free is not Danger-Free

  • Studies show that drivers are up to four times more likely to be in a crash when talking on the phone (hands free or hand held). 

Taking action to reduce dangerous distracted driving

  • Education, enforcement and personal responsibility are all part of the solution needed to reduce distracted driving and move us to zero fatalities by 2030, our Target Zero goal.
  • The Washington Traffic Safety Commission recommends that drivers adopt the following five common-sense rules:
  1. Turn off your phone and put it in the glove box.
  2. If you’re a passenger, hold the driver’s phone.
  3. Don’t text or call a friend or loved one if you know they are driving
  4. If using GPS on your phone, plug in the address before you start the car and use a mounted phone holder.
  5. Talk to family members (especially teen drivers) about the risks of cell phone use. Model responsible behavior by not using your phone while in the car.

Target Zero

  • Washington State has adopted Target Zero — a goal to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington's roadways to zero by the year 2030. Our goal is zero deaths and serious injuries, because every life counts.

Additional Information

WTSC’s 2017 Distracted Driving Observational Survey:

Video: “Sam’s Story:” A mother on the death of her son from distracted driving.

National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Distracted Driving FAQ