Defensive Driving and Distracted Driving are Mutually Exclusive
As a towing company in Puyallup, we’re used to being on the front lines when it comes to traffic accidents. And with all of the driving we do, we catch a lot of drivers doing more than just driving while behind the wheel.
We understand, though. Driving a car, with all of its automatic bells and whistles, has become almost too easy. Toggling between songs on a streaming music service, checking directions on GPS, glancing to see who’s calling, and sending that “real quick” text to your boss to let them know you’re going to be late is all too easy these days. And most drivers are guilty, hence the new distracted driving law.
Here is the hard data behind the new law according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- Distracted driving related to cell phone use claimed 3,477 lives in 2015
- 391,000 people in the US were injured in crashes involving distracted drivers.
- During the daytime, more than 600,000 American drivers use cell phones while driving
What driving distracted means
Notice lawmakers have moved from the “texting while driving” phrase to the all-encompassing “distracted driving”. This very deliberately sends the message of no-tolerance when it comes to any task that minimizes a driver’s attention to the road and other drivers. And there’s a good reason for it. Like believing everything you do online is private, it’s just as foolish to believe that what you do behind sheets of glass and metal in the car is private.
In fact, highway patrol issued nearly 8,000 citations in Washington State alone in 2016. Throw that fact into the conversation the next time you’re sucked into a debate about the difficulty of enforcing a law that requires officers to peer into thousands of windows of moving vehicles.
According to the Washington State Patrol website, “In 2015, distracted driving accounted for 30% of the state’s fatal collisions.” More compelling, in terms of citations, state Troopers made over 16,000 contacts for use of a mobile device while driving. This number includes citations, written warnings, and verbal warnings. Under the new law passed in July, written and verbal warnings are taken out of the equation and every offender will be handed a $136 fine.
A grace period to allow for distracted driving education
However, if you’re interested in making a last-minute contribution to the distracted driving fatality statistics, there’s still time! The Washington State Patrol has allowed for a six-month “grace” period where troopers will be looking for opportunities to educate more drivers as opposed to ticketing them (note, this article was written in August 2017). Washington drivers should keep in mind that just because they have until January 2018 to avoid fines, this doesn’t mean fiddling with electronic devices while in the car is smart. If an officer sees evidence of distracted driving alongside other dangerous driving behaviors, or if a driver has received a previous warning, a ticket is entirely possible.
The New Handheld Device Law: Quick Facts
- It’s illegal to hold a mobile phone even while stopped in traffic or an intersection
- It is now illegal to even touch your electronic device while seated in the driver’s seat while the vehicle is in the line of traffic (i.e. not while car is running and pulled to the side of the road)
- Your insurance company will be notified of any infractions
- Subsequent citations within a five-year period will result in a $235 fine
- Simultaneous”dangerously distracted” activities could increase the penalty
Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving (not just to avoid a fine)
With nearly every travel-related task becoming reliant on mobile devices, from navigation to entertainment to research, it’s increasingly difficult to accomplish anything in a timely manner without using them. But the bottom line is that barreling down a strip of asphalt in a 4,000-pound hunk of metal is inherently dangerous. And doing so while drunk decreases your control, as does multitasking. The statistics are compelling, which is why it’s time to start seeing distracted driving in the same taboo light as drunk driving and taking steps to detach ourselves from this dangerous habit.
Here are some things you can do to help yourself (and others) avoid distracted driving:
- Put your phone in an unreachable location in your car before driving.
- Elect one of your passengers to do any navigation or DJ-ing.
- Get used to safely pulling over onto the side of the road to text, change music selections, or find directions.
- Prepare beforehand. Memorize turns and exits before even getting in the car if you choose not to use voice directions. Otherwise, pull over to orient yourself.