This week, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) announced that law enforcement agencies across the state are deploying emphasis patrols this month, focused on identifying distracted drivers on the road.

The enforcement period is part of ongoing efforts to encourage focused driving and marks the beginning of Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April.

The patrols are a reminder that distracted driving is a serious threat to community safety because it increases the risk of a serious crash.

In WTSC’s 2023 Annual Statewide Traffic Safety Survey, Washington drivers rated “typing or interacting with their cell phones in their hands” to be one of the most dangerous driving behaviors. Less than 1% said it was not dangerous. However, 28 percent of survey respondents admitted that they have engaged in this behavior while driving.

“Most people already know that distracted driving is unsafe. These extra patrols are a periodic reminder to do what we already know is safer – put your phone away or let someone else respond to a text or look up directions,” said Erica Stineman, Communications Manager, WTSC.

WTSC hopes this survey can be used as a resource to help everyone in Washington reinforce the importance of focused driving with friends, family, and loved ones.

“One of the things that stood out from our statewide safety survey was that over 21% of families said they do not have a rule about using cell phones while driving,” said Janine Koffel, Distracted Driving Program Manager, WTSC. “Conversations about safe driving really do save lives. I urge everyone to have a discussion with their family and loved ones about focused driving. Set guidelines for cell phone use in the car and make sure that you help each other honor those rules when you’re on the road.”

“Employers also play an important role in promoting focused driving,” Koffel said. A free employer policy development toolkit, templates, and a complete training module are available at the website. “Even if employees aren’t professional drivers or don’t routinely drive as part of their workday, crashes from distracted driving can have significant workplace consequences.”

Distracted driving is a violation of Washington’s Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) law, which states drivers may not hold cell phones or watch videos while they are driving, stopped in traffic or at a stop light. Hands-free use is limited to a single touch device. The first violation results in an E-DUIticket that costs drivers $136. If the driver receives a second ticket within five years, the fine increases to $234.

Distraction is not just limited to electronics. Eating, drinking, and personal grooming also take drivers’ attention away from the road and other road users.

Drivers can visit the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s website to learn how to be a more attentive, focused and safer driver. Materials are available in seven languages.