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Redmond police officers target distracted drivers

In an effort to make the roads safer, the Redmond Police Department’s (RPD) traffic division participated in a national campaign targeting distracted drivers this week.

The campaign took place from April 10-15 and targeted drivers who were using their cell phones while driving. On Tuesday, RPD officers enforcing Washington’s cell phone laws focused their patrols on a few different areas around town — including downtown and the Avondale Road corridor.

Lt. Doug Krueger said statistics show those areas to have more collisions than other areas around Redmond.

“The Avondale corridor is a tremendously busy location with collisions,” he said.

In 2013, there were 891 collisions in Redmond and 38 percent were rear-end collisions, which are typically the fault of inattentive drivers, according to a City of Redmond press release.

In addition to causing rear-end collisions, Krueger said distracted drivers can also “wander” out of their lanes, often sideswiping another vehicle. He said this can happen when a driver is distracted by their cell phone and not controlling their vehicle or when a driver intentionally changes lanes but is distracted by their cell phone and doesn’t make sure the lane is clear.

Distracted drivers can also cause collisions while making turns at a light, Krueger said. This will happen when an inattentive driver makes their turn, not realizing a car is traveling in their lane. In some cases, Krueger said, a collision could also include a pedestrian crossing the street.

“We want to reduce the end result,” Krueger said about collisions caused by distracted driving.

The city press release states the national average of distracted driving collisions is between 22-30 percent in one year. Redmond is above the national average at 38 percent, further stressing the urgency and importance of good law enforcement to help make it safer for drivers in Redmond, the release reads.

To reinforce this message, the city has recently installed 19 “Hang Up and Drive” signs throughout Redmond to help end distracted driving.

“We want to change behavior,” Krueger said about the goal of the campaign.

While RPD’s efforts were focused on cell phone use this week, Krueger said there are other ways drivers can be distracted, including eating, playing with the radio dials or changing CDs and talking with passengers. He said something else that has become more common is people driving with animals in their laps.

“It’s not real safe to have your dog in your lap while you’re driving,” Krueger said.

RPD is just one of several agencies throughout Washington to participate in the national campaign. In addition, the extra patrols are also part of Target Zero, the state’s strategic highway safety plan whose goal is to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by the year 2030.

Annie Kirk, a Target Zero manager for King County, said the national distracted driver campaign supports this goal. She said there have been extra law enforcement patrols targeting cell phone use while driving in King County in the past, but this is the first time a national campaign has been held. This is also the first time a distracted driver campaign has reached the state level in Washington, Kirk added.

Kirk said Washington law states that drivers cannot text or have their cell phones up to their ears to talk while driving. However, she said, they can have their phones on speaker or use Bluetooth or other hands-free features in their vehicle. It is also OK for drivers to call 911 on their cell phones in the case of an emergency. Washington law states drivers 17 and younger with an intermediate driver’s license cannot use cell phones while driving at all, Kirk said.

The fine for texting or using a cell phone while driving is $124.

For clarification of Washington’s cell phone laws or any of the state’s rules of the road, contact Krueger at dkrueger@redmond.gov or at (425) 556-2570.

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