Distracted While Driving in Yakima? Crack Down Starts Next Month
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month in Washington State. Before the month arrives there's some good news from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s Annual Distracted Driving Observation Survey.
PATROLS START IN YAKIMA COUNTY NEXT MONTH
The survey says the rate fell in 2021, from 9.4 percent in 2020 to 6.9 percent. Commission officials hope to see the rate drop even more this month as emphasis patrols get underway. Numbers for last year aren't yet available.
Patrols participating in Yakima County next month include:
Yakima Police Department
Yakima County Sheriff's Office
Selah Police Department
TALK OR TEXT WHILE DRIVING? YOU COULD BE CITED
This year authorities will have more eyes looking for distracted drivers. 150 different agencies will be involved in the campaign.
“Focused driving means safer roads,” says Erika Mascorro, Washington Traffic Safety Commission Program Manager for Distracted Driving. “The decline in distracted drivers gives us something to cheer as we kick-off distracted driving month. Seeing more people focused on driving is motivation to get all of us off the phone when we’re on the road.”
DISTRACTED DRIVING LEADS TO FATAL CRASHES
Despite the recent decline Washington's distracted driving rate climbed nearly three points in 2020 over 2019. Officials say in 2021 the rate declined to its pre-pandemic level. But while distracted driving is down fatalities are up. Traffic fatalities that began increasing in 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, continued and worsened in 2021. Unofficial numbers show further worsening in 2023.
TALKING AND TEXTING ARE LEADING CAUSES OF DISTRACTED DRIVING
What's the most common type of distracted driving authorities see in Yakima and around the state? Drivers using cell phones.
In 2017, the legislature passed Washington’s current distracted driving law, which bans hand-held cell phone use while driving, stopped in traffic, or while at a stop light. Commission officials say since the law was passed, distracted driving deaths have decreased 40 percent, from 155 in 2017 to 93 in 2020.
THINK ABOUT THE NEXT TIME YOU'RE DRIVING DISTRACTED
If you use the phone while driving research shows it takes a driver 27 seconds to refocus on the road after using a cell phone, the time it can take to drive the length of three football fields in a car moving at 25 mph.