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Law Enforcement Giving Extra Attention – and Tickets – To Distracted Drivers April 3-16
“U Text, U Drive, U Pay” is the message the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) is sending to distracted drivers in April as part of “Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Drivers using cell phones behind the wheel are not only at a higher risk for a crash, during April they face a greater chance they will be ticketed for their risky behavior. Nearly 150 law enforcement agencies around the state are adding patrols looking specifically for those distracted by cell phones while operating their vehicles.
“This show of force calls attention to the public safety threat of drivers being distracted by texting or talking on their phones,” said Angie Ward, program manager at Washington Traffic Safety Commission, which is providing funding for the extra patrols. “We want drivers to understand that you can operate your car. Or you can operate your phone. But you can’t be safe and do both at once.” Under current Washington law, it is illegal to text or hold your phone to your ear while driving. Violators pay a $136 fine.
This year’s distracted driving awareness month comes after news that fatalities from distracted driving increased by 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, and a recent study by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission showing that 71 percent of drivers are distracted by their cell phones – the most dangerous type of distraction. Studies show that drivers are three-to-four times more likely to be in a crash when talking on the phone and 23 times more likely to crash when entering information into their phones.
During the extra patrols in 2014 (the last year data is available), citations jumped 197 percent. Says Ward, “While more tickets are issued during the patrols, people should know they can be ticketed any time. More than 2,000 tickets just for cell phone use were issued in November of 2014.”
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.
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.
Washington law enforcement has been observing Distracted Driving Awareness Month with High Visibility Enforcement since 2014. The focus is a part of Target Zero, a statewide initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030.
“Our goal is that everyone will become more aware of the dangers of driving distracted and the serious threat of cell phone use to everyone’s safety on the road. It only takes one driver distracted for a few seconds to wreck lives forever. We can avoid that – we just have to turn our phones off and turn safety on.”
WTSC’s 2017 Distracted Driving Observational Survey: http://wtsc.wa.gov/download/5986/