The Snoqualmie Police Department is among the the 150 statewide law enforcement agencies to take part in a distracted driving emphasis patrols April 3 to 16. “U Text, U Drive, U Pay” is the message the Washington Traffic Safety Commission is sending in April as part of “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.”
Drivers using cell phones behind the wheel are at a higher risk for a crash. During the extra patrols, they also face a greater chance of being ticketed for their risky behavior. During the campaign, added patrols will be looking specifically for drivers distracted by cell phones while operating their vehicles.
“This show of force calls attention to the public safety threat posed by drivers being distracted by texting or talking on their phones,” said Angie Ward, program manager at the safety commission, which is funding the patrols. “We want drivers to understand that you can operate a car. Or you can operate your phone. But you can’t be safe and do both at once.”
Other area law enforcement agencies participating include the police departments in Bellevue, Clyde Hill, Issaquah, Redmond, Lake Forest Park, Mercer Island, Newcastle, Port of Seattle, Sammamish, Seattle and Shoreline.
Fatalities from distracted driving increased by 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, and a recent study by the safety commission showed that 71 percent of distracted drivers are distracted by their cell phones. 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) and 23 times more likely to crash when entering information into their phones.
Under current Washington law, it is illegal to text or hold your phone to your ear while driving. Violators pay a $136 minimum fine.
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.
Learn more about distracted driving at http://wadrivetozero.com.