SPOKANE, Wash. – Washington State Patrol leaders said they gave out thousands of tickets under the new distracted driving law.
Overall, 6,475 drivers were cited in the first six months the law took effect. Officials said distracted driving is a factor in one of every three traffic related fatalities and one in four serious injuries.
Before the law went into effect, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission tracked how many drivers use their cell phone behind the wheel. Statewide, 9.2 percent of drivers observed were distracted in 2017. More people used their phones while stopped at a light. The majority of distracted drivers are using a cell phone, but 2.1 percent of drivers were distracted because they were eating, using the radio, or paying more attention to kids or pets in the car.
The study also tracked distracted driving by county. In 2017, Grant County had the highest rate of distracted driving at 15.9 percent. Pierce County was second with 14.4 percent. Kittitas county was third with 13.9 percent. Spokane ranked 19th in the state with 5.9 percent. That's down slightly from the year before. In 2016, 7.2 percent of Spokane drivers were distracted.
The biggest change from 2016 to 2017 was in Whitman County where the distracted driving rate dropped from 7.6 percent to 4.7 percent. The Traffic Safety Commission plans to do this same study in May to find out if the distracted driving law changes things.