You better watch out while driving around downtown Seattle or on the region’s freeways. That’s where other Seattle drivers are more likely not to be watching the road.
According to the recent Seattle’s Safest Driver promotion, drivers are using their phones behind the wheel most often through the downtown core.
The promotion was organized by the Seattle Department of Transportation and PEMCO Insurance. Participants used an app on their phone which monitored their driving habits, such as using their phone while driving, braking too hard, speeding, or if they used proper etiquette when entering or exiting a freeway. The results show a troubling map of where drivers are staring at their phones instead of the road.
SDOT illustrated the issue with a road map of the city — streets lit up in bright green are where drivers were using their phones. The downtown core is solid green, as are the major freeways and highways. The floating I-90 and 520 bridges across Lake Washington stand out. As does the West Seattle Bridge, and I-405. Another notable route is Elliott Avenue onto 15th Avenue and over the Ballard Bridge. I-5 through Seattle lights up like a lightsaber.
The main take away — Seattle drivers are most likely using their phones when you’re on the road, too. Since all the indicated streets are the main routes people use to get around town, chances are someone is on their phone in a car near you.
There is some good news, however. SDOT reports that among the top 50 percent of participants, phone distraction went down by 20 percent (down by 35 percent among the top 25 percent of users).
SDOT says that watching a phone for five seconds going 55 mph is essentially like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. In Seattle, distracted driving was a factor in 187 percent more crashes in 2016 than in 2011. A ticket for using your phone while driving starts at $136. A second offense is $234.
Other Seattle habits
SDOT doesn’t reveal how many drivers were using their phones while in the car. What we do know is that the data was monitored over eight weeks and more than 4,000 Seattle drivers used the app. There were nearly 300,000 car trips logged.
Whether driving or being a passenger, cars accounted for the vast majority of trips: a total of 2,580,470 miles traveled and 306,630 trips combined.
While driving in a car was the most used form of transportation — it was called “Seattle’s Safest Driver” after all — the app also tracked other methods of getting around town.
And if you’re a bike rider out there, you may want to be more attentive yourself. The areas where cyclists tend to ride in Seattle are also the same streets where drivers were using their phones behind the wheel. The Second Avenue protected bike lane and Alaskan Way showed significant bike usage.
Jason Rantz is a good driver
Among the details SDOT released on its promotion, was that KTTH’s Jason Rantz beat former SDOT Director Scott Kubly when it came to being a safe driver. Both ended up in the 90th percentile. But Rantz was in the high 90s, just a few points above Kubly.
But as SDOT’s blog points out: “(Rantz) doesn’t even drive very much. He likes to walk to work when he can, and takes rideshare and transit a fair amount too.”