Law enforcement steps up distracted driving patrols

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ADAMS, GRANTY COUNTY — On the road, off the phone—that’s the message from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC).

Extra patrols, now on state roadways are focused specifically on distracted motorists that are violating the new Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) law.

People who are talking on cell phones or watch videos while they are driving, stopped in traffic, or at a stop light, will be ticketed for doing so. This includes tablets, laptops, games, or any hand-held electronic devices. Motorists also need to be aware the new law restricts hands-free use to a single touch.

“Our goal is to raise public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving,” said Alison Mitchell, Target Zero Manager for the Grant County Target Zero Task Force. “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.”

According to the WSTC, over 150 law enforcement agencies will be out in force statewide looking for distracted drivers.

The Central Basin Traffic Safety Task Force is coordinating patrols with the Washington State Patrol and police departments and sheriff’s offices from Adams County, Othello, Ritzville, Grant County, Royal City, Mattawa, Warden, Moses Lake, Ephrata, Soap Lake, Quincy, Grand Coulee, Lincoln County, Ferry County and Republic.

A statewide survey has found that 96 percent of Washington drivers agree that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous. The survey also revealed 88 percent of those polled said they don’t check social media while driving, and most do not read incoming texts. Only one percent of those surveyed said passengers surveyed they 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. Drivers who violate the law will take an additional hit in the pocketbook, as all information on cell phone infractions is now available to insurance companies.

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