Pierce County police agencies have started increased patrols through June 2.
Patrol emphasis is placed on catching drivers in the act of using their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle.
Participating police departments include Sumner, Orting, Puyallup and others across the state. Washington State Patrol and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department are also taking part in the emphasized patrols.
Right now, Bonney Lake Police Department is undergoing a patrol emphasis on seat belt use. However, a cell phone patrol was issued in the month of April. The patrol resulted in 101 cell phone violation tickets, according to Laura Miller, crime analyst for the department. Increased attention to distracted drivers may have been responsible for what appeared to be a lower number of collisions that same month, she said.
“Most months we see about five cell phone violations. To go from the handful of violations that we usually see in a month’s time to over 100, shows that the problem really does exist. Collisions also went down that month.”
Sgt. Jeff Engel of Sumner Police reported that their department is currently emphasizing both cell phone use and driving without properly using a seatbelt.
“Click it or Ticket. We’re doing both (seat belt and cell phone patrols) right now. It can be dangerous so it’s a serious concern,” he said.
According to an official government website, www.distraction.gov, texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times. They define distracted driving as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving …”
The website continues to clarify the issue by explaining that there are three main types of distraction: visual, manual and cognitive. Texting for example, utilizes all three types of distraction, thus making it more dangerous than something that falls under only one category.
The statistics are daunting; in 2011, there were 3,331 deaths due to distracted driving. Cell phone usage was reported in 18 percent of all fatal collisions, according to the website.
Use a hands free device if you must make a call while driving, Engel said. It’s the law, so hang up and buckle in.