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WSP, Police on the Lookout for Cell Phone-Using Drivers

If you are a distracted driver, then it’s time to put the phone down.

Over the next few weeks, Washington State Patrol and local law enforcement officers will be putting more resources into ticketing drivers who aren’t paying attention to the road. Between now and Aug. 23, officers in unmarked cars will be solely focused on scanning the roads to see if drivers are talking on cell phones or texting.

A law that took effect two years ago makes it illegal to hold a cell phone or text while driving.

Drivers distracted by their digital devices are a growing problem, but just how large is hard to figure out. Annie Kirk with King County Public Health who keeps track of this issue says the problem is often underreported.

"Law enforcement don't have the resources to be able to pull cell phone records for every single crash that they go to," Kirk said. "Most often, the only opportunities that they'll have to really review cell phone records are, unfortunately, when someone has died in the collision."

A recent survey shows 20 percent of fatal crashes that occurred in King County between 2009 and 2012 involved distracted drivers. But phones aren’t the only things causing our attention to wander.

Since the law went into effect prohibiting drivers from holding cell phones, more than 100,000 tickets have been issued at $124 each.

Drivers who are 18 and older are still allowed to use hands-free devices. However, research shows using phones this way is just as distracting as holding them. 

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.