On the road, off the phone. That’s the message from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) as the agency announces extras patrols focused on distracted driving from April 2-14.
Statewide, more than 150 law enforcement agencies will be out in force looking for distracted drivers.
Under the new “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics” (E-DUI) law, drivers may not hold cell phones or watch videos while they’re driving, stopped in traffic or at a stoplight. 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 Erika Mascorro, program manager for WTSC. “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 don’t read incoming texts.
Only 1 percent felt comfortable being a passenger in a car with a driver who was texting.
The WTSC also is announcing a public awareness 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,” WTSC Deputy Director Pam Pannkuk said. “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 took effect 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.