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State Patrol, police to crack down this month on drivers on cellphones

Washington State Patrol. - COURTESY PHOTO
Washington State Patrol.
— image credit: COURTESY PHOTO

The Washington State Patrol and local law enforcement agencies will have extra patrols from Aug. 5-23 targeting distracted drivers using cellphones or texting while driving in King County.

"Distracted driving is quickly becoming one of the main reasons for collisions on our roadways, please help us by keeping our roadways safer by staying alert while driving,” said Lt. Michael Rupert of the Washington State Patrol in a media release.

“Just like drunk driving, distracted driving is illegal and threatens the safety of other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists,” said Dr. Beth Ebel, of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. “We see the consequences from the distraction too often in the trauma center.”

Research by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) showed that from 2009-2012, distracted driver-involved collisions accounted for 20 percent of all traffic deaths in King County. A study by the University of Utah confirmed that subjects who text while driving are six times more likely to be involved in a collision than a drunk driver.

Distracted driving goes beyond just cellphone use or texting; reading, eating and adjusting music are other factors that can affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle in a safe manner.

In Washington State, drivers are prohibited from texting or talking on their cellphones without the use of a hands-free device. The fine for this violation is $124 but could be increased in the case of a traffic collision. Teens with intermediate driver licenses or learner permits may not use a wireless device at all while driving, including hands-free devices, unless they’re reporting an emergency.

This special patrol is funded by grants from the King County Emergency Medical Services and WTSC with the coordination of the King County Target Zero Task Force.

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