While I generally agree with comments submitted to the Reporter by Mr. Jeff Jared, I must take exception to his complaint published in the Aug. 4 Letters to the Editor section about the superfluous nature of Washington state’s new distracted driving law. As a criminal defense attorney in Kirkland, he should know better. A recent posting by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSHA) and The Advertising Council (The Ad Council), provided the following statistics:
Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic on America’s roadways. In 2015, there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
A 2015 Erie Insurance distracted driving survey reported that drivers do all sorts of dangerous things behind the wheel, including brushing teeth and changing clothes. The survey also found that one-third of drivers admitted to texting while driving, and three-quarters saying they’ve seen others do it.
Ten percent of fatal crashes, 15 percent of injury crashes and 14 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2015 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
The “general negligence” and “reckless driving” laws currently in force provide the means for law-enforcement to cite motor-vehicle operators for those infractions; however, they are punitive in nature and often enforced “after-the-fact.” The recently enacted distracted driving law is intended to be preventive in nature. Over the past 40 years, manufacturers of motor vehicles have incorporated new technology that has relieved operators of the incentive to “pay attention” that was required of drivers who learned to drive in the ‘50s and before. It is, therefore, not surprising that a large majority of “younger” drivers, who learned to drive in these modern vehicles, are easily distracted.
How many of us have observed a motorist in an adjacent vehicle oblivious to a changing traffic signal or weaving in and out of their traffic lane while talking or texting on a cell phone? Since the current statutes or publication of distracted driving related accident statistics have failed to deter these unsafe and dangerous practices, it is clear that there needs to be an additional incentive. A perfect example of this situation is the passage of the seat-belt law, which met with similar resistance, but clearly incentivized the motoring public to buckle-up and saved countless lives.