‘Emphasis patrols’ aim to nab distracted drivers

A woman driving with her cell phone to her ear is pulled over by policeIn Washington, drivers who use electronic gadgets behind the wheel run a higher risk this month. Thanks to a national grant to combat distracted driving, state troopers are now working overtime to catch lawbreakers, and fines start at $136.

As we enter April's second week of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, a timely new study suggests distracted driving is less common in our corner of the country than elsewhere.

Life360, a family networking app, released data showing that Northwest states rank low for distracted driving. Researchers studied 45 billion miles driven by the app's users in what Life360 claims to be the largest distracted-driving study ever conducted.

Tech-savvy Oregon and Washington ranked No. 6 and No. 9 for least-distracted states, while Idaho came in even better at No. 3. New Jersey, Florida, and Mississippi top the nation in distracted driving.

I was surprised to see two Bay Area tech hubs ranked among America's least-distracted cities, Oakland at No. 2 and San Francisco at No. 3. Denver drivers rank as the nation's least-distracted. Cities with the most-distracted drivers are Miami, New York, and Tampa.

We often hear about "crazy California drivers," yet motorists in congested Los Angeles earned a respectable ranking as the 10th least-distracted.

Other findings from the Life360 study:

  • Distracted drivers are four times more likely to speed.

  • They're 40% more likely to hit their brakes hard.

  • Most distracted driving incidents occur from noon to 3 p.m., not during rush hour.

  • Parents are only 6% better than teens in avoiding distractions behind the wheel.

  • Half of parents knowingly text their teen children while the kids are driving.

Learn more in Life360's "Distracted Driving Intervention" report.

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