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Statewide Special Patrols To Crack Down On Distracted Driving Starting Thursday

Flickr Photo/Skip&Nell (CC BY-NC-ND)

You’ve probably heard the slogan “Click It or Ticket” to promote seatbelt safety. Now, Washington state is joining in a new national campaign to target people who text and drive.

Special patrols will be out statewide, starting Thursday, with a new snappy slogan to add: “U-Drive, U-Text, U-Pay.”

Standing along a busy stretch of Bothell Way, a few miles north of Seattle, Lake Forest Park Police Detective Tony Matthews counted three cell phone violations in just three to four minutes on a recent afternoon.

“All of which we can actually stop somebody for and cite them,” Matthews said. Each would carry a fine of $124.

Matthews said statistics clearly show your risk of a traffic accident goes up when you text or talk on a cell phone.

In 2013, researchers at the University of Washington Medicine’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center conducted a study of drivers in Washington. They found that nearly 1 in 10 drivers was observed using a cell phone or texting behind the wheel.

This campaign aims to change those behaviors and cut out other distractions, like eating in the car. Matthews admits he sometimes grabs a bite on the road. But he’s trying stop.

The special patrols will be out across the state for about a week.

Matthews warned that officers have heard all the excuses, "Oh, I just had to check my e-mail," or, "My mother called and she’s sick."

He also said that other methods of getting out of a ticket probably won’t work either.

"Crying? They can do anything they want. Usually when we’re doing an emphasis we don’t give verbal warnings, so chances are pretty good that you’re going to actually get a ticket when we’re doing an emphasis," Matthews said.

Matthews suggested if you really need to check your phone, just pull off to the side of the road. It only takes a few seconds.

Year started with KUOW: 2006