As a result of recently ended law enforcement emphasis patrols almost 400 drivers in four Northeast Washington counties got an expensive message to buckle up and stay off their cell phones while driving.
Extra patrols from agencies in Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties issued 297 tickets for seatbelt infractions along with 101 tickets for using cellphone, texting or other electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle. While the seat belt infractions remained steady, 295 were issued over the same period last year, the number of electronic device use tickets almost doubled from 55 in 2012.
In addition, four DUIs, two misdemeanor drug, five felony and seven misdemeanor warrant arrests were made. Sixty speeding violations, 18 child passenger safety infractions as well as 61 uninsured motorists and 29 suspended/revoked license violations were also issued.
Statewide, during the patrols, law enforcement officers wrote 2,321 seatbelt violations and 1,448 cell phone/ texting tickets. Last year, during this same time period, officers on the extra patrols statewide issued 3,171 seat belt violations and 1,059 cell phone violations were written.
Washington Traffic Safety media consultant Amanda Bedell said the reason for the increase in distracted driver citations stemmed from the increased emphasis this year as opposed to last.
“We know that cellphone violators are out there, and the public has been asking for law enforcement to crack down on them,” she said. “It made sense to add that component to the extra patrols.”
The Spokane County Target Zero Task Force, law enforcement from Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille and Ferry Counties,worked the extra patrols that were funded by a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.