Drivers need to put down their phones and drive or risk being fined under new law

July 20, 2017

New Distracted Driving Law

Effective July 23, , Washington drivers will not be permitted to hold or operate hand-held electronic devices while they are driving. Use of devices such as cell phones, tablets, video-games and laptops to text, access information, take pictures and talk, even while stopped in traffic, is prohibited under the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) Act. “Hands-free” devices such as mounted dashboard screens and Bluetooth can be used legally, but only with a single touch to start use.

*Exemptions include drivers using a personal electronic device to contact emergency services; certain transit employees and commercial drivers (within the scope of their employment) and drivers operating authorized emergency vehicles.

In the U.S., distracted driving caused 3,477 traffic deaths in 2015, a 9 percent increase from the year before, and “a deadly epidemic,” according to the National Safety Council. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), 71 percent of distracted drivers are engaging in the most dangerous distraction, using their cell phones behind the wheel. The new law in Washington is part of Target Zero, a statewide initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030.

Currently, texting or holding a cellphone to the ear while driving carries a fine of $124 in Washington State. Starting July 23, using a hand-held device while driving will be considered a primary offense and law enforcement will be issuing fines $136-$234 to violators. In addition, a citation will be added to your driving record and reported to insurance providers. You can also receive a $99 ticket for other types of distractions such as grooming, smoking, eating, or reading if the activity interferes with safe driving, and you are pulled over for another traffic offense.

The WTSC recommends the following tips for complying with the new law:

  1. Turn off your phone and put it in the glove box
  2. If you’re a passenger, hold the driver’s phone
  3. Don’t text or call a friend or loved one if you know they are driving
  4. If using GPS on your phone, plug in the address before you start the car and use a mounted phone holder
  5. Talk to family members (especially teen drivers) about the risks of cell phone use. Model responsible behavior by not using your phone while in the car

For more information about the new law visit http://www.wadrivetozero.com/distracted-driving.


Protecting Teen Drivers with 5 simple rules

October 16, 2015

5-to-drive-1National Teen Driver Safety Week is Oct. 18-24, and the Washington State Patrol, Washington Traffic Safety Commission, numerous partners around the state, and the Department of Licensing want to encourage parents to use the “5 to Drive” rules to talk to their teen drivers about safety on the road.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens and young adults. In 2014, there were 530 serious injury crashes and 147 fatalities among Washington drivers between the ages of 16 and 25.

“Young drivers need extra support and parents can help reduce the risk of a crash by insisting teens follow our state’s intermediate driver licensing requirements and insisting on safe driving behavior,” said Pat Kohler, DOL Director. “We’re promoting the ‘5 to Drive’ rules as a simple, common sense way parents can keep teen drivers safe.”

Parents can easily ask their teens to agree to the following “5 to Drive” rules before handing over their car keys:

“Distracted and impaired driving can be prevented,” said Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “This is an opportunity for parents to act as positive role models and talk to their teenagers about these simple steps to prevent tragedies before they occur.”

For more information about Teen Driver Safety Week and the “5 to Drive” campaign, please visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at: www.safercar.gov/parents. It has detailed information and statistics, and informative videos designed to help save the lives of teen drivers.

The video below is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s YouTube channel. This video shows us why it’s important for parents to talk to their teens about this important issue.


New motorcycle awareness video shows why looking twice deserves “A Second Look”

December 2, 2014

It’s here!

After months of work, the Washington Motorcycle Safety Program is proud to roll-out its new driver training video focused on motorcycle awareness.

A Second Look is an 8-minute video produced with teen viewers in mind. It’s currently being distributed to every driver training school in Washington state, and is also available at dol.wa.gov.

A Second Look is an easily accessible tool for driving schools and instructors to use as they fulfill the state curriculum requirement regarding motorcycle awareness.

Paired with the video is a set of companion learning materials that can help facilitate even more active learning for their students.  These materials include essential “conversation generator” questions, brain-based learning classroom activities, an outline of key concepts, a fun quiz, and some resource information regarding motorcycle awareness.

A Second Look was produced in cooperation with Notion Pictures, using a federal grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Filmed in and around Olympia, Washington, this video conveys basic technical information useful to new drivers. It also creates empathy for all road users.

The story in this video follows a young driver named Ian who learns how to safely drive around motorcycles.  Ian learns from a motorcyclist named Randy.

We felt it was essential to create an emotional hook, so that viewers would not only learn ways to drive more safely,  but (and perhaps more importantly) gain a clearer understanding about why they should drive more safely.

Because A Second Look was developed for young drivers in driver training, we chose to present a stereotyped version of a rider.  However, as the story unfolds, it reveals that people who are stereotyped are, in fact, real human beings.

Using that approach, our hope is that the learning will go deeper, and remain memorable for a lifetime of safe driving.

Producing a video with a teen audience in mind provided the opportunity to make some unexpected choices, such as NOT showing the actual crash at the end of the story.

In using that approach, we’ve left it up to the “mind’s eye” of each viewer to see the consequence of Ian’s mistake in a way that is most powerful and relevant to him or her.

Why did the crash happen?

What could the driver and rider have done differently?

Did Randy die?

All of those questions are left for the viewer to consider.

Driving instructors can then use these questions, in conjunction with the companion materials, to re-enforce the power of making safe, effective choices on the road.

Though created for driving students, this video reminds us all of the power in simply looking twice; doing so really can–and does–save lives.


US Transportation Secretary showcases DOL video in effort to combat distracted driving

July 12, 2011

by Mark Horner

When the Department of Licensing produced a video about a 19-year-old Thurston County woman killed in a distracted driving crash, many of you took notice.  Now, the nation’s top transportation official has noticed, too.

This week,  US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood added our video about Heather Lerch to the US DOT’s Faces of Distraction website.  Lerch died instantly after her car left the road on February 23, 2010. 

Only a few weeks after their daughter’s death, Dan and Wendy Lerch shared their story with us on-camera, hoping to convince others not to text and drive. They said that they have no doubt that Heather had been texting behind the wheel when she crashed.

 On his blog this week, LaHood writes:

“Recording this video was obviously very painful for Dan and Wendy, and I can’t thank them enough. I hope that everyone who hears their story will remember to keep their eyes on the road, their hands on the wheel, and their focus on driving.”

 
Since the DOL first published the video on its YouTube channel in April of 2010, Heather’s mangled car has been on display at many public places, to include several high schools.

The DOL produced two versions of Heather’s story; a 30-second Public Service Announcement, and a longer video that runs about five-and-a-half  minutes. The US DOT is showcasing the longer video.

Last year, the DOL and State Patrol also featured Heather’s story  in their efforts to inform the public about a new state law that makes the illegal use of a cell phone while driving a primary offense.


Target Zero Teams: 70 Lives Saved in King, Pierce, Snohomish Counties

June 30, 2011

Are you one of the 70? Is your spouse? How about your children? Your teacher?

Any of those could be among the 70 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties whose lives were saved since Target Zero Teams hit the streets one year ago. The $6 million demonstration project was launched July 1, 2010.

“We expected to see a reduction, of course. But this exceeds our expectations for the project,” said Lowell Porter, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “70 lives in just three counties, in just one year.”

Of course it’s impossible to know exactly who wasn’t killed. But it is possible to say how many weren’t.

In each of the five years prior to launching the Target Zero Teams, an average of 203 people died in traffic in the three test counties. In the year immediately following launch, the number dropped to 133.

The Commission also found that deaths in King, Pierce and Snohomish compared favorably to two similar counties that were pre-designated as control counties for the Target Zero Teams demonstration project. Finally, while traffic deaths are trending down statewide and nationwide, the drop seen in the Target Zero counties is steeper than the general trend.

“We now believe this high-visibility enforcement strategy is impacting all crashes, not just DUIs,” Porter said. “When police are out in force, drivers tend to slow down and buckle up. That saves even more lives.”

At the core of the teams are 21 Washington State Troopers and sergeants, augmented by local sheriff’s deputies and city police officers as time and funding permit. The teams patrol in very specific places: areas where drunk drivers have killed in the past.
During the past year, Target Zero Teams from all agencies have arrested more than 3,400 impaired drivers. But State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste is quick to add that Target Zero is about much more than just making arrests.

“From day one we’ve said we would measure success by a reduction in fatalities,” said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “These interim results make us think we’re on the right track, and we look forward to final results after another year of hard work.”

Patrols are not limited to freeways or state highways. Troopers, deputies and officers go where the data leads them. That means state troopers might be patrolling city streets, or city officers on the freeway.


DOL director and State Patrol chief announce motorcycle safety campaign

May 5, 2011

The Washington State Patrol chief and DOL director Liz Luce announced a major motorcycle safety outreach campaign for this summer, geared to reduce motorcycle-related injuries and fatalities.

Last year, 67 motorcyclists died on Washington roads, a slight increase from 2009.

“We have some riders who are impaired by drugs or alcohol, inexperienced riders out there without a motorcycle endorsement and some motorists who, frankly, need to pay more attention to the road,” Luce said. “We’re focused on reducing these three major problems.”

“It happens every year,” said WSP Chief John Batiste. “The good weather arrives and so do these needless tragedies. We’re going to try and get ahead of the game with very strict enforcement.”

DOL’s “Look Twice, Save a Life” campaign will reach millions of drivers across the state and about 24,000 unendorsed motorcycle owners. Gov. Gregoire also issued a proclamation declaring May as Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month.

Riders can be difficult to see on busy roads because of their smaller size and profile. Motorists should take an extra second to be aware of what’s around them. An extra look could save a life.

The top three rider-causes of motorcycle crashes are:

  • Alcohol or drug impairment
  • Improper lane position
  • Speeding

 To legally operate a motorcycle on Washington roads, riders must have a driver license endorsement—or they could see their bike impounded even after a simple traffic stop.

Motorcycle training and endorsement info on the web: www.EndorseYourSport.com


On multi-lane freeways, keep right, except to pass

March 7, 2011