Cell phone use while driving increases risk of crashing by three times
On the road, off the phone — that’s the message from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) as they announce extra patrols focused on distracted driving, April 2-14.
Statewide, more than150 law enforcement agencies will be out in force looking for distracted drivers.
The Clallam and Jefferson County Target Zero Task Force is coordinating these extra patrols with police departments and sheriff’s offices from Port Angeles, Sequim, Port Townsend, Jefferson County, and Clallam County, and the Washington State Patrol.
Under the new “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics” (E-DUI) law, drivers may not hold cell phones or watch videos while they are driving, stopped in traffic, or at a stop light. This includes tablets, laptops, games, or any hand-held electronic devices. The law restricts hands-free use to a single touch.
“Our goal is to raise public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving,” said Jim Borte with the Clallam County Sheriff’s Office. “Research shows that drivers are three times more likely to crash when talking on the phone, and 23 times more likely to crash when entering information into their phone.”
A statewide survey of Washington drivers found that 96 percent agree that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous, 88 percent said they don’t check social media while driving and most said they do not read incoming texts. Only one percent felt comfortable being a passenger in a car with a driver who was texting.
The WTSC is also announcing a PSA campaign that provides extra education to parents and caregivers. The message encourages them to stay off their phones in order to protect their passengers and model safe driving behavior for the next generation.
“We need to change the culture of distracted driving in our state,” said WTSC Deputy Director Pam Pannkuk. “We believe parents can lead the way in making this shift and model good driving behavior for their children.”
Nearly 1,500 drivers have been ticketed each month since Washington’s new E-DUI law began in July 2017.
The first E-DUI ticket will cost drivers $136. If the driver incurs a second ticket within five years, the fine increases to $234. In addition, all information on cell phone infractions is now available to insurance companies.