State Patrol to teens: Texting, driving don’t mix

EVERETT —The season of teenage freedom is ahead, and that means more young drivers will be on the road.

The Washington State Patrol wants to remind young folks and their families about the dangers of texting while driving, Sgt. Kirk Rudeen said.

“When you’re on the road, things can go from good to horrible in the blink of an eye,” he said.

About two years ago, Washington banned drivers from using hand-held phones. Exemptions exist, but the law says police generally can pull over and cite drivers who are texting or holding their phones up to their ear to talk.

Troopers in 2011 contacted 17,142 Washington drivers who were talking on cell phones and 1,577 who were texting, according to State Patrol data.

In the four-county region that includes Snohomish County, 1,288 drivers were ticketed in 2011 for talking on the phone and 56 for texting.

So far, 2012 phone citations are on track to double or even triple last year’s, the data show.

“Our officers obviously have discretion, but we’ve been trying to use the last year or two as an educational time,” Rudeen said.

Tech-savvy teens may not realize that a few seconds spent sending a text could prevent them from making a life-saving decision on the road, Rudeen said.

Once a driver looks up, their brain still takes time to react to whatever’s happening ahead, he said.

“The lag time can be a second or a half-second, and that’s going to mean the difference between being in a collision or not being in a collision,” he said.

Troopers also encourage parents to set a good driving example for their kids. Teenagers who see Mom or Dad text at the wheel may get the wrong message, Rudeen said.

Summertime trips and vacations often involve the highways, and troopers don’t want to see awful wrecks caused by distracted drivers, he said.

“You’ve got your whole future ahead of you. We don’t want you to destroy that future to try to send a text while you’re driving and, God forbid, be in a collision when you’re seriously injured or killed or caused someone else to be seriously injured or killed,” he said.

Rikki King: 425-339-3449; rking@heraldnet.com

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