Olympia – The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) is calling on Washingtonians to refocus on preventing crashes caused by distracted driving as the state begins observing April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The call comes after Washington experienced increases in distracted driving in 2020.
Starting April 1, more than 130 law enforcement agencies statewide will add extra distracted driving patrols looking for drivers who are distracted by their electronic devices. Drivers can also receive a “dangerously distracted” citation for committing other traffic violations due to any type of distraction. The WTSC funds the annual enhanced enforcement activity.
“All of us can work together to encourage focused driving,” said Shelly Baldwin, WTSC Director. “Together we can make our roads safer. If you’re behind the wheel, put your phone away. If you’re a passenger, speak up politely to encourage the driver to remain focused. As a parent, set rules and be a good example. If we all do our part, we can prevent crashes that result from distracted driving.”
According to WTSC’s 2020 Distracted Driving Observation Survey, the statewide distracted driver rate increased from 6.8 percent in 2019 to 9.4 percent last year. Distracted driving behavior on city streets rose from one in every 10 drivers to nearly one in every five. Driver distraction on county roads doubled. The increases included all types of driver distraction, not just hand-held cell phone use.
“We hope that by emphasizing distracted driving prevention this April we can help everyone build safety habits that are not dependent on fear of getting a ticket,” said Erika Mascorro, WTSC Program Manager, Distracted Driving. “Safety is up to all of us doing our part to pay attention behind the wheel, and encouraging focus as parents, friends and coworkers.”
WTSC released practical steps drivers, passengers, families, and workplaces can take to encourage focused driving. Those steps can be found on WTSC’s Together We Get There website.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also coordinating an effort called Connect to Disconnect (C2D), a 4-hour national distracted driving enforcement. This initiative will take place on April 8, 2021.