June 10th marks the change of talking or sending text messages while holding a wireless device to a primary traffic offense carrying a $124 fine. Distracted driving is becoming one of the most serious hazards on the road. In 2008, nearly 6,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver and more than half a million were injured. That means if police see you holding your phone they can pull you over and ticket you. Drivers must use hands-free devices. Teens and new drivers with instruction permits or intermediate licenses are not permitted to use wireless devices at all, except in emergencies.

Cell phones, however, are not the only distraction. Distracted driving is any non-driving activity a person engages in that has the potential to distract him or her from the primary task of driving and increases the risk of crashing.

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual - taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual - taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive - taking your mind off what you're doing

While all distractions can endanger drivers' safety, texting is the most alarming because it involves all three types of distraction. Other distracting activities include: Grooming, reading (including maps, using a PDA or navigation system) or watching a video.

Check out these statistics related to distracted driving:

  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. (Source: Carnegie Mellon)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
  • An estimated 21 percent of injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving. (NHTSA)

Source: United States Department of Transportation www.distraction.gov 

Tips for Parents:
Inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes. Parents, it's up to YOU to set a good example for your teen.  Show them what safe driving looks like, and they will follow your lead!  

Ask yourself, what kind of a role model am I when I'm behind the wheel? Remember parents, your teen looks up to you and is counting on you to be a positive influence when they're learning to drive. Be a parent who doesn't become distracted while driving and help your teen learn how to do the same thing! For even more information and helpful tips, visit www.underyourinfluence.org .

For more information:
Contact the East Region Emergency Medical Services, Injury Prevention and Public Education Committee:
Tim Steiner, Cheney Fire Department, (509) 498-9291
A.J. Hutsell, Spokane Regional Health District, (509) 324-1530.

Injury Prevention and Public Education Committee Partners:

Airway Heights Fire Department, American Medical Response, Cheney Fire Department, Lewiston City Fire Department, Lincoln County Fire District 4, Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Children's Hospital, Spokane County Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, Spokane Regional Health District, Stevens County Fire District 1, Target Zero Task Force, Valley Hospital and Medical Center,
Whitman Hospital, WSU Extension