Prior to COVID, it appeared, perhaps, that Washington state was getting a handle on distracted driving. 2-3 years ago, rates were easing backwards.

Tough new digital distraction laws and increased awareness, both seemed to be helping. But according to the latest annual study by Zutobi, we're 4th worst in the US.

Zutobi is the company that makes a widely used DMV test practice app, many young drivers learn how to operate vehicles, as well as getting driving and safety tips.

Every year they publish a study on distracted driving, and we find some eye-opening stats for our state in there. Zutobi, using state and national crash data, reports that out of 494 fatal accidents in WA (2019 into 2020 data) 109 of them were directly related to digital  distracted driving, which is 22.1 percent.

Only New Mexico (the worst) New Jersey and Hawaii are worse. The states with the lowest distracted driving fatal crash rates are Mississippi, West Virginia and Georgia.

Also, they found some data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) showing it's NOT teens who are the worst offenders.

 Federal data shows the age group most likely to use a cellphone or other digital device behind the wheel are adults 25-34 years of age, 23 percent. For teens 16-20 that rate is only 17 percent. 

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Idaho came in at 10th worst, and interestingly Oregon came in an impressive 45th on the list.

It's no secret driving on the Westside near Seattle can be hair-raising, but traffic in the Mid Columbia is getting a lot more challenging. Who hasn't been passed on Highway 240 or 395 by some person going about 80? Or had somebody blow through a roundabout without even looking to see if you're entering? Many of them are on their phones...

While the number of distracted driving crashes in the US since 2016 has not changed much, about 285K a year, the percentage of those caused by phones or digital devices has risen steadily.


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