For the first time ever, the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission has designed emphasis patrols based upon citizen input!

Julie Furlong of the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission told Townsquare Media Monday  the upcoming emphasis patrols in the Mid-Columbia will aggressively target drivers who talk on cellphones or text.

Furlong said the WSTSC and law enforcement agencies have been flooded with emails and calls from drivers asking for a "crackdown" on motorists who talk on phones, or text while driving.

She said numerous citizens have reported nearly being hit, or even almost run off the road by other distracted drivers whom they saw talking on the phone, or especially, looking down at their phone while texting!

Furlong said the seat belt emphasis patrols have raised Washington's compliance rate to nearly 97%, now it's time to focus on what they call distracted drivers.  From the WSTSC news release:

Between May 20 and June 2, motorists in Benton and Franklin Counties can expect to see law enforcement patrolling city and county roads in search of unbuckled drivers and passengers and drivers using their cell phones.

Last year, during this same time period, officers on routine and extra patrols statewide issued 3,171 seat belt violations amongst the 11,047 motorists who were stopped.

Similarly, last year during this time period, 1,059 cell phone violations were written.  However, taking a historical look, in 2010, (the same year cell phone use became a primary law in Washington), only 63 drivers were cited statewide.

These emphasis patrols fall under what is called the Target Zero program,  which hopes to eliminate traffic fatalities in Washington by the year 2030.  All Mid-Columbia law enforcement agencies will be participating in the upcoming emphasis patrols.