Are we getting the message? 6 years into the E-DUI

Aug 8, 2023, 4:47 AM

E-DUI message...

A woman is driving with a cell phone (posed scene). Photo: Melissa Erichsen/dpa (Photo by Melissa Erichsen/picture alliance via Getty Images)

(Photo by Melissa Erichsen/picture alliance via Getty Images)

It has been six years since Washington’s distracted driving law, known as an electronic DUI or an E-DUI, went into effect. Are drivers finally getting the message?

The year 2022 was the deadliest on Washington roads since 1990 when 750 people were killed. This came after a then-record 675 people were killed in 2021.

Impairment continues to be the likeliest cause of these deadly crashes. Speeding is the second most common culprit. Not wearing a seatbelt is the third most common reason for a fatality crash.

Coming in fourth is distracted driving. It has steadily declined since the law went into effect, even with a slight uptick in 2020. Distracted driving represents the cause of 16% of the 750 fatal crashes last year.

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King County does a yearly survey about distracted driving, and the stats show drivers are pretty good about obeying the law.

“Eighty-two percent believe it’s unlikely that they will talk on a handheld phone while driving that number increased from 2020,” Target Zero manager Gurman Kaur said. “Ninety-three percent found it unacceptable to type a text or email while driving, and that’s an increase from last year.”

But the goal is to get to 100%.

“Our survey has shown that we’ve seen a gradual increase in overall behavior and knowledge about distracted driving in King County, but our goal, of course, is to make sure 100% King County residents are driving distracted free,” Kaur said.

And that’s why King County deputies are doing a high visibility emphasis patrol on distracted driving this week.

“Patrols will be out looking for people who are distracted, and that includes having cell phones even if they’re stopped at a red light,” Kaur said.  “That’s still something that’s not acceptable to do.”

And that’s where I see most of the violations. For some reason, people still think they can mess with the phone while stopping at a signal. That’s just as much of a violation as doing it while at speed.

I still see people holding the phone to their mouths too.

“Most of us want to follow the rules,” Kaur said. “Most of us want to drive distraction-free, we also recognize that traffic fatalities are on the rise, and distraction is a contributing factor. It’s a choice people make, and it’s a dangerous one.”

It’s a $136 ticket if you’re caught using your phone. A second violation in five years will cost you $234.

The simplest way to avoid an E-DUI is to put your phone in the glove box or in the trunk before you go. If you’re going to keep it in the car while you drive, put it in a cradle and do all your GPS and navigation before you leave.

You can still hold your phone while making an emergency call.

Check out more of Chris Sullivan’s Chokepoints.


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Are we getting the message? 6 years into the E-DUI