What is Distracted Driving and Statistics in Washington?

By Brain Injury Law of Seattle

texting and driving death


Driving a vehicle is dangerous, even when the driver is aware of their surroundings and paying attention to road and traffic guidelines. With one or more distractions, driving can quickly become fatal for the driver themselves or others on the road. That doesn’t stop numerous individuals from allowing another activity to divide their attention while behind the wheel.

Distracted driving remains a significant issue in Washington and the rest of the United States. To illustrate the danger, we’ll answer the question “what is distracted driving?” and provide distracted driving statistics in the state of Washington. We’ll also detail Washington’s distracted drivers law to show you the legal implications of the perilous activity.


What Is Distracted Driving?

What is the definition of distracted driving? Distracted driving involves operating a vehicle while engaging in any other activity that pulls attention away from the road. Because driving requires one’s full attention, any distraction creates a potential risk to the driver, other drivers, and pedestrians.

Being distracted while driving can mean undertaking physical activity, such as looking away from the road or taking a hand off the wheel to text. Distracted driving can occur when the driver’s eyes and hands are focused, but their mind is not. Thinking about anything other than safe driving causes a significant and potentially dangerous distraction.


what is distracted driving


Distracted Driving Statistics

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes, distracted driving was the cause of 3,142 deaths in the U.S. in 2020. That number has been above 3,000 for 10 of the past 11 years. In the same year, over 420,000 individuals suffered injuries due to crashes involving distracted drivers.

These distracted driving statistics illustrate a significant issue among U.S. drivers; Washington citizens are no outliers. According to the Washington Department of Transportation, 2019 saw over 10,400 distracted driving crashes, a number that rose by more than 1,000 the following year. Texting and driving statistics indicate that cell phone-related crashes accounted for 649 and 758 of those incidents, respectively.


Types of Driving Distractions

Three main types of driving distractions are visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions take a driver’s eyes off of the road, while manual distractions take their hands off of the wheel. Cognitive distractions pull the driver’s focus and could cause an accident even if the driver’s eyes and hands are on the road and wheel.


Examples of Visual Distractions

  • Checking a phone or GPS
  • Looking at the radio or temperature controls
  • Turning to look at the backseat passengers
  • Eyeing billboards or street signs


Examples of Manual Distractions

  • Texting or using the phone
  • Eating or drinking
  • Changing the radio or temperature controls
  • Searching for items within the car
  • Putting on makeup


Examples of Cognitive Distractions

  • Talking to passengers
  • Speaking or texting on the phone
  • Extreme emotions
  • Road rage
  • Daydreaming or thinking about anything other than driving and the road

Although texting is the most common distraction and accounts for the most distracted driving accidents, any distractions while driving can be just as dangerous. It’s vital for parents to teach their children the perils of driving while distracted and for passengers to alert their drivers when they aren’t paying full attention to the road.


driving while distracted

Distracted Drivers Law

While distractions while driving can lead to serious accidents and even death, they can also put the operator in violation of the distracted drivers law. Washington State Legislature RCW 46.71.672 prohibits drivers from using a cell phone or any other hand-held personal electronic device while driving, including while stopped at a stop sign or traffic light. Drivers may only make phone calls on hands-free devices. This law aims to reduce texting and driving deaths.

RCW 46.71.673 elaborates on Washington’s distracted drivers law by making it illegal to engage in any activity, whether it be visual, manual, or cognitive, that pulls focus from safely operating the vehicle. While the law doesn’t specifically list any distractions, there are nearly endless activities that could qualify.


Contact Brain Injury Law of Seattle for a Free Consultation

Brain Injury Law of Seattle hopes to increase road safety and help decrease injuries and fatal accidents by informing drivers of the history and potential risks of distracted driving. If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury due to a distracted driving crash, contact us today.

Brain Injury of Seattle is committed to getting each of our clients the best legal help and, by pairing with Seattle’s leading brain injury experts, the best medical assistance. Call us for a free consultation for your distracted driving injuries in Seattle, WA.

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