State Patrol says distracted driving laws are working
YAKIMA, Wash—Drivers on their cell phones are all too ordinary on the road, nowadays.
“I was stopped at the light and quickly checked a text came in, and obviously that wasn't the right thing to do,” said Les Flue, who got pulled over by Washington State Patrol.
Since January, WSP has rolled out stricter enforcement when it comes to handling electronic devices and driving.
“They can't have it in their hand, that would be a violation. If they’re talking, that would be a violation. The only access that they have to electronic devices, at this time, would be a simple swipe from left to right on the screen, which would be to activate their hands-free device,” said Trooper Justin Rumsey.
He says he strongly believes the new law is effective, and that most people are unlikely to re-offend.
In the month of January, State Patrol stopped 50 drivers in Yakima for using cell phones behind the wheel. They handed out 21 tickets and 29 people walked away with a warning.
“At this time, it’s what’s causing crashes, so we need to take enforcement on that in order to get that fixed,” said Rumsey.
And if you get pulled over by this trooper - a piece of advice: Don't argue that you weren't doing anything wrong.
“Sometimes just a verbal warning can fix the problem, but other times, people insist that they were OK in using their device, so it might take a different action,” said Rumsey.
State patrol aren't the only ones who spot people on their phones while driving. Truck drivers say they have a bird’s eye view.
“When somebody does pass you up at a high rate of speed, most of the time they’re on their phone too. I mean, even at a high rate of speed, you would think that they would slow down, but they’re still talking on the phone and still going down the road 70, 80 miles an hour,” said truck driver Louis Salgado.
Trooper Rumsey says cars travel a lot further than they think in a short amount of time, and when the driver isn’t paying attention, a lot can happen.
“Just a couple seconds off the road is hundreds of feet they can travel, not knowing what’s in front of them, because they looked away from the cars,” said Rumsey.
It takes five seconds to send or read a text, and in five seconds at 55 miles per hour, your car travels the length of a football field.
According to state patrol, deaths from distracted driving went up by 32 percent from 2014 to 2015. 71 percent of distracted drivers use cell phones behind the wheel, and one out of four crashes involves drivers using their cell phones leading up to the crash.
Distracted driving will also cost you money. It's $136 for your first ticket, and $234 for your second, if within five years of your first. Not to mention, your insurance company is notified.
To avoid all this inconvenience and cost, Trooper Rumsey says you should take the time to pull over if you need to send a text or make a call.
“Pull off the side of a road, pull into a parking lot, take the call, and then return back to the road, because five to ten minutes of time is definitely worth saving somebody’s life, if it comes down to that,” said Rumsey.