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Study: Washington drivers are talking on their phones a little less


It turns out that when police start issuing $136 fines for using your cellphone in the car, the amount of people using their cellphones while driving decreases.

A new study found that the percentage of people holding a cellphone dropped to 3.4 percent last year from 6 percent, and that 8.2 percent of drivers were distracted while the car was moving, down 1 percent.

But it’s the nature of study itself that has KIRO Radio’s John Curley not entirely convinced, since it merely involved volunteers creepily peering inside passing cars to observe any examples of distracted driving.

“I don’t believe it. I’d like to see it compared to the last three years,” he said. “I’d like to find out what day, what time, did the days vary, was the Tom and Curley Show on that day? Because that can have a big effect on what people do for entertainment.”

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“I’m just going to do pure observation for my part: Everybody’s on their phone, at a stoplight.”

The Washington State Traffic Safety Commission had volunteers peer into 27,638 cars in 23 counties and note when drivers were doing things other than looking at the road, like talking on the phone, eating, adjusting the radio, or checking to see if they’re being peered at.

The Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act prohibits fidgeting with gadgets like phones and tablets while driving, even if you’re stopped at a red light and holding up increasingly angry drivers. Doing it once will land you a $136 fine, but if you do it again within five years it’s $234, which could have gone to buying a new phone. The Washington State Patrol handed out 31,160 tickets to distracted drivers between January 2018 and the end of November.

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While cellphone use was down, drivers seemed to find different ways to amuse themselves, since the study also showed an increase in other types of distracted behavior, including eating, changing the radio station, and dealing with pets or kids, reports The Seattle Times. This rose to 3.7 percent from 2 percent.

“If you really want to stop it, you whack somebody for $2,000,” Curley joked. “It becomes a big story, and then you’re driving you’re so paranoid that if you see a cop anywhere, you would never want to do it. No one would take the risk.”

The county with the biggest drop? That would be Kitsap County, where distracted driving somehow went from 20 percent to 4 percent, or at least it did whenever a volunteer was peering into the car.

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