by: Kevin McCarty Updated:
Seatac, Wash. - Put down the cellphone and drive. That's the message behind a month-long, statewide emphasis targeting distracted drivers. Troopers with the Washington State Patrol along with local police and sheriff's departments are taking to the streets and freeways throughout August to get the word out, as well as to hand out tickets.
"About 20 percent of all King County traffic deaths last year were actually the result of distracted drivers", said SeaTac police officer Trevor Brunner. Brunner took part in an emphasis patrol along International Boulevard looking for drivers with the cellphone up to the ear. Brunner and about a half dozen officers and troopers had help from undercover detectives who stood on street corners peering in windows to spot drivers breaking the law.
SeaTac Detective Robin Fry braved hot summer sunshine to stand at a bus stop at 188th and International Boulevard spotting drivers and using a disguised radio to alert patrol officers. "If they've actually got it up to their ear, that's what I'm looking for," said Fry.
A driver caught talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device, or someone texting while driving can face a fine of $124. A state patrol media release about the August emphasis said distracted drivers are unpredictable. They may lane travel, or veer from their lane into another or fail to stop at a traffic light. They can even cross a centerline and hit another vehicle head on.
The release said the average text takes a driver's attention away from the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 miles per hour that's like driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed.