Would you drive the length of a football field with your eyes closed? According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Commission, that is how far many of us travel on the freeway while glancing down to read a text.
Every day, at least nine people die and 1,000 more are injured on American roads in distracted driving accidents. These are collisions caused by cell phones, dashboard touchscreens, voice commands and other in-vehicle technologies—all of which pose a threat to safety.
In the summer of 2017, Washington’s “E-DUI” Law was enacted, establishing new rules around the use of personal electronic devices while driving. One part of the law, the Electronic DUI offense, prohibits people from holding any electronic device in their hand while driving, stopped in traffic or stopped at a light. The second part of the law refers to other activities that could cause distracted driving, such as, but not limited to, eating, smoking, reading or grooming.
“Use” of personal electronic devices pertains to:
(i) Holding a personal electronic device in either hand or both hands;
(ii) Using your hand or finger to compose, send, read, view, access, browse, transmit, save, or retrieve email, text messages, instant messages, photographs, or other electronic data; however, this does not preclude the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device;
(iii) Watching video on a personal electronic device.
The Washington State Patrol is committed to applying these laws and keeping everyone safe and focused on the roads. Since the start of this year, Troopers have made contact with 9,315 distracted drivers. 8,875 of the distracted drivers were contacted for their electronic device use, and among these, 5,164 were arrested.
April was Distracted Driving Awareness Month, established as a unified effort to bring awareness to the dangers of and prevent deaths due to distracted driving. In the age where there is seemingly endless distraction via phones and other mobile devices, everyone on the road should be focused and unimpaired to avoid collisions.
In April alone, Troopers made contact with 2,323 drivers distracted by their electronic devices.
District 1 Trooper Matthew Rogers has witnessed this distraction firsthand.
“I’ve seen someone livestreaming a college basketball game, I’ve seen another person watching Netflix. There’s a lot of people that will stream YouTube music videos to listen to music,” Trooper Rogers said. “Even though they’re not touching their phones, they are clearly visually distracted.”
When people are distracted, the signs are evident, he explains.
“Usually when people are visually distracted, what I see is lane travel, following too close, and dangerous other violations as a result of them not focusing on their driving,” said Trooper Rogers.
Trooper Rogers and his colleagues will continue to be on alert for distracted drivers, especially into the summer months with more folks traveling and young drivers on the roads. Please remember that no text or streamed video is worth the risk of hurting yourself or others.
To find out more about distracted driving and Target Zero’s “On the Road, Off the Phone” campaign, visit WA Drive to Zero.