According to some new data released by the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), and reported by West Richland PD,  many of our state's rural counties have a far higher rate of serious injury or fatal crashes caused by distracted driving.

By distracted driving, officials mean just about everything from eating or applying makeup, to texting or otherwise 'playing' with a digital device.

According to the WTSC, there are some surprising statistics. These are taken from 2015 through 2017, some of the most recent data compiled. The figures list how many of what are considered 'distraction related' out of the total number of incidents. Only crashes resulting in serious injury and transport or death were compiled in this study:

  • Benton County:  39 of 158,  25%
  • Franklin County:  32 of 112, 29%--same as King County
  • Yakima County:  74 of 344,  22%
  • Adams County:  19 of 67, 28%
  • Lincoln County:  8 of 33, 27%

These figures are among the lowest in state, or the lowest tier. However some counties were noticeably higher. They include:

  • Walla Walla County:  26 of 66, 39%
  • Grant County, 73 of 173,  42%
  • Spokane County,  163 of 507,  33% --which is the same percentage as Snohomish County.

Surprisingly, the highest percentage in the state was in very rural Garfield County, which is in the southeastern corner of the state, east of Walla Walla. They only had 7 such serious injury or fatal crashes, but 6 were distraction related, a rate of 86%.

It's believed the higher rural rates are due to less traffic, but higher speeds on state two lane highways, coupled with higher digital device use.  Drivers in most populated areas are more used to being focused because they have to, due to heavier traffic.

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