Local law enforcement cracking down on distracted drivers

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- Law enforcement agencies in Yakima County are taking aim at texting and driving. They're part of the first-ever nationwide campaign against distracted driving. More patrols were added for the six-day operation.

KIMA spent an hour with a Washington state trooper Tuesday. For the most part, drivers were on their best behavior.

"U Drive. U Text. U Pay." It's the slogan of the nationwide month-long campaign to crack down on distracted drivers.

Katy Reichlin admits she can be distracted while driving.

"It's hard not to acknowledge a beep when you get a text or a phone call," said Katy.

Katy said she talks on the phone while driving, but doesn't text.

KIMA wanted to see how many distracted drivers we could spot in Downtown Yakima. Within 15 minutes, we saw people grabbing something to read, texting on their cell phone and talking to a passenger - all considered distracting driving.

"Let's say you're texting on your phone, and then you look up and somebody just decelerated right in front of you, hit the brakes, and you can't react to that," Trooper Ryan Sauve said.

Some police agencies in the Yakima Valley joined forces on a high-visibility enforcement campaign with more patrols that target distracted drivers.

YPD wrote almost 40 tickets for drivers on cell phones in just three days. Deputies handed out eight tickets so far using fewer officers.

During KIMA's hour with Trooper Sauve, he pulled over one driver for speeding and distracted driving. Sauve said the driver was talking to his son and not focused on the road.

"You have those moments where you look up, and you're like, 'Holy (expletive),' like, 'Ahhh!' You have to slow down real quick," said Katy.

"So why do you do it?" KIMA asked.

"Um, I don't know," said Katy.

"Safety's our number one priority out here," said Sauve. "If people are aware of it and they're more educated about it, maybe they will stop doing those distracting things."

Troopers in Yakima County gave tickets to 150 people for using their phones while driving last year. That's almost triple the number from 2012.

It's a $124 ticket. Officers hope this campaign convinces drivers to pay attention to what's in front of them instead of their phones. Final numbers from this effort are expected Wednesday.