Washington's new distracted driving law has been enforced since Jan. 1, and state
troopers issued 878 tickets last month while seeing some odd driver behavior.
A Washington State Patrol trooper told
The Spokesman-Review that more drivers are holding their phones down on their laps, out of sight, to avoid being caught. That makes them tilt their heads low – an obvious clue, and also dangerous because it draws their vision far from the road.
I've witnessed such drivers a lot, and it's pretty absurd. The phone offenders look like they're contemplating their crotches.
Reaction time soars when your eyes wander from the road even for just a second. Simple math tells us that a car traveling at 60 mph covers 88 feet per second. At 70 mph, it's 103 feet per second.
Now imagine you're driving the speed limit on a freeway, and you look down to skim a text, or to tap out a phone number. In the meantime the car in front of you brakes suddenly to avoid a swerving driver. Or maybe it's road debris, or a deer. How far would you travel before you looked up and recognized danger?
Even if you were traveling at the recommended following distance – two seconds, which few drivers adhere to – you'd have just enough time to stop, assuming you react immediately to brake lights. If you're distracted even for just a couple seconds, you crash.
Spokane police alone issued 102 E-DUI tickets in January. A first offense costs drivers $136, and a second ticket within five years sets you back $234.
What you really don't want is to be set back by a crash caused by distraction. In rear-end collisions, PEMCO claims adjusters will tell you it's the following vehicle that's almost always at fault.
I can imagine what the courts would say if I rear-ended someone while reading a phone on my lap.