Drivers who want to pick up their phones while on the road might want to think again. More than 150 law enforcement agencies statewide will be adding extra patrols from April 2 to April 14, focused on distracted driving.
Under Washington’s “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics” law, which began July 2017, almost 1,500 people statewide have been ticketed monthly, according to a press release from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
Under the law, drivers can’t hold cell phones or watch videos while they’re driving or stopped in traffic or at a stoplight. The law includes laptops, tablets, games or any hand-held electronic device. Hands-free use is restricted to a single touch, the release states.
The first DUI-Electronic ticket costs $136. The second within five years is $234.
The month the law began 214 drivers were stopped for DUI-Electronic in Whatcom County by the State Patrol, but only 54 drivers were ticketed. So far this year, 23 drivers have been ticketed by the state patrol.
In Bellingham, a total of 339 tickets for DUI-Electronic have been written since July 2017, according to police.
“Our goal is to raise public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving,” said Erika Mascorro, program manager for the safety commission, in a prepared statement. “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 showed 88 percent of people said they don’t check social media or incoming texts while driving and 96 percent agree using a cell phone while driving is dangerous.
Only 1 percent said they felt safe being a passenger with a driver who was texting, the release states.
Cell phone infractions are also now available to insurance companies.
There’s also a campaign asking parents to stay off their phones in order to teach safe driving behavior to younger generations.
“We need to change the culture of distracted driving in our state,” Pam Pannkuk, safety commission deputy director, said in her prepared statement. “We believe parents can lead the way in making this shift and model good driving behavior for their children.”