The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) has released a report on its observational survey of distracted driving performed in June 2018.
The survey findings estimate the driver distraction rate was 8.2 percent in 2018, down from 9.2 percent in both 2016 and 2017, although this change was not significant. Driver distraction includes all activities that divert attention and full engagement from the task of driving including general inattention (lost in thought), smoking, eating, grooming, reading, interactions with passengers or vehicle controls, and electronic device use.
In 2018, there was a significant decrease in the percentage of drivers holding a cell phone. In 2016 and 2017, 5.6 and 5.7 percent (respectively) of observed drivers were holding or manipulating cell phones. In 2018, this dropped to 3.4 percent of drivers. However, in 2018 there was also a significant increase in drivers engaged in “other distracting behavior,” such as eating, tuning a radio, or attending to pets or children. In 2016 and 2017, cell phones were the source of three quarters of distractions. In 2018, due to the decrease in handheld cell phone use and the increase in “other distractions,” cell phones are the source of just over half of driver distractions.
In 2017, Washington passed the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) Act, which prohibits any hand-held device use while operating a vehicle. The report provides the baseline measure of driver distraction prior to the new law’s effective date and one year following.