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WA gets top marks for seatbelt use, lagging on cell phone safety

Washington State has the highest rate of seat belt use in the nation. That’s according to a report recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Bob Calkins with the Washington State Patrol keeps an eye on the statistics.

“The national average is 84 percent. We are first among competing states at 97 and a half percent,” he says.

Following Washington are California, Oregon and Hawaii.

While these statistics are promising, there’s still the challenge of cell phone use behind the wheel.

Calkins says the state is having trouble improving compliance on that front.

“The big three killers in traffic are DUI, speed, and failure to wear a seatbelt," Calkins says. "We’re starting to see some numbers with regards to fatalities and cell phones. The problem we have with cell phones is documenting the full magnitude of the problem because it’s only in the most serious collisions that we’re able to get the cell phone data.”

Washington’s cell phone law prohibits the use of handheld devices while driving. Hands-free devices may be used, except by drivers with instruction permits or intermediate licenses.