(PHOTO AND STORY: KHQ.COM)
What to know:
- Traffic safety experts say drivers are three times more likely to be in a crash when talking on a cell phone, and 23 times more likely to crash when entering information into a cell phone.
- Distracted driving fatalities in Washington increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015. And in a recent WA study, 71 percent of drivers who were observed as being distracted were using a cell phone behind the wheel.
- Insurers are experiencing higher claims costs due to more vehicle accidents.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and it is shining a spotlight on the deadly and costly trend of distracted driving.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), fatal auto accidents increased by 7.2% in 2015.
Even worse, distracted driving-related fatal auto accidents increased by 32% in Washington the same year.
The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) reports from their new observational study that 71% of the time, when distracted driving was observed, it involved the use of a mobile device.
Texting while driving is banned in 46 states and talking on a hand-held device while operating a motor vehicle is banned in 14, including Washington.
WTSC says talking on a cell phone while driving increases crash risk by three times.
Texting while driving increases that risk by 23 times.
Lawmakers proposing distracted driving bills believe that expanding the definition of illegal cell phone use while driving and increasing fines for violators will help to save lives.
Insurers supporting the legislation say that stopping the dramatic rise in smartphone and distraction-related accidents is key to managing the rising claim costs.
WTSC has launched a statewide initiative called Target Zero, aiming to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on the state roadways to zero by the year 2030. As part of the initiative, nearly 150 law enforcement agencies are adding extra patrols April 3-16 to specifically look for and ticket those who are distracted by cell phones while behind the wheel.