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A Ferndale Police officer makes contact with a driver during a distracted driving emphasis detail (April 10, 2017). Photo: Discover Ferndale

Distracted driving emphasis patrols underway during April

“U Text, U Drive, U Pay” is the message the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) is sending to distracted drivers this month as part of “Distracted Driving Awareness Month.” Drivers using cell phones behind the wheel are not only at a higher risk for a crash, during April they face a greater chance they will be ticketed for their risky behavior. Nearly 150 law enforcement agencies around the state, including the Ferndale Police Department, are adding patrols looking specifically for those distracted by cell phones while operating their vehicles.

Ferndale Police were seen conducting a distracted driving emphasis detail today on Main Street by Pioneer Bridge. Officers stopped and contacted drivers observed to be driving while distracted (e.g. talking on their cell phone or messaging with it). They were also looking for seatbelt violations and speeders.

distracted driving emphasis patrol observer on Main Street 2017-04-10
A Ferndale Police officer positioned next to what appears to be a disabled vehicle observes passing traffic for distracted driving violations (April 10, 2017). Photo: Discover Ferndale

“This show of force calls attention to the public safety threat posed by drivers being distracted by texting or talking on their phones,” said WTSC Program Manager Angie Ward, who is funding the extra patrols. “We want drivers to understand that you can operate a car. Or you can operate your phone. But you can’t be safe and do both at once.”

This year’s distracted driving awareness month comes after news that fatalities from distracted driving increased by 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, and a recent study by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission showing that 71 percent of distracted drivers are distracted by their cell phones – the most dangerous type of distraction.

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Under current Washington law, distracted driving violators face a $136 minimum fine.

The WTSC recommends that drivers adopt the following five common-sense rules:

  • Turn off your phone and put it in the glove box.
  • If you’re a passenger, hold the driver’s phone.
  • Don’t text or call a friend or loved one if you know they are driving.
  • If using GPS on your phone, plug in the address before you start the car and use a mounted phone holder.
  • Talk to family members (especially teen drivers) about the risks of cell phone use. Model responsible behavior by not using your phone while in the car.

Washington law enforcement has been observing Distracted Driving Awareness Month with High Visibility Enforcement since 2014. The focus is a part of Target Zero, a statewide initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030.

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