Extra distracted driving patrols scheduled for April

While many things can distract a driver, cell phones are the most dangerous.

Heads up, Washington! April is Distracted Driving Awareness month, so make a commitment to leave your cell phone alone while you’re driving. Not only is it dangerous, but with extra officers looking for cell phone violators, you risk a ticket otherwise.

While many things can distract a driver, cell phones are the most dangerous.

“Cell phones distract drivers differently than eating a hamburger or putting on make-up,” Angie Ward, Washington Traffic Safety Commission program manager, explained in a press release. “Holding a phone in your hand takes your hand off the wheel. Reading or entering data into your phone takes your eyes off the road. The biggest problem is that it takes your mind away from the tasks of driving.”

For the third consecutive year, Washington law enforcement officers will join the national campaign aimed at curbing the temptation of drivers to use their phones. Extra patrols will run from April 1-14.

Cell phones cause crashes because they connect us to social and informational interchanges, explains Ward. This complex mental task creates a situation where a driver “looks” but doesn’t “see.”

Recent AAA research has shown that it takes nearly 30 seconds after ending the call or text for a driver’s mind to return its focus to driving.

One in 10 drivers and one-third of pedestrians were distracted by cell phone use, according to two studies conducted by the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center in Seattle.

“Taken together, this research has serious implications for people who think it’s safe to dial or send a text message at a stoplight” said Dr. Beth Ebel lead author of the Harborview studies. “Even if drivers stop talking or texting before the light turns green, they still don’t take in all the important elements in their surroundings for another 30 seconds. Couple this with pedestrians who may also be distracted and it’s a recipe for a trip to the emergency room, or worse.”

One of five deadly crashes and one of three serious injury crashes happen at or near an intersection, Ward notes.

These extra patrols are part of Target Zero—striving to end traffic deaths and serious injuries in Washington by 2030. For more information, visit www.targetzero.com.

Additional information about the Washington Traffic Safety Commission can be found at www.wtsc.wa.gov.

-from a press release