SPOKANE, Wash. - Washington State Patrol troopers say texting and driving is all too common and it may have caused a recent fatal collision.
Shortly before 8 a.m. on July 26 Robert White was traveling northbound on State Route 291 on his motorcycle when a teen driver traveling southbound crossed the center line and hit him.
According to court documents the 17-year old took an impairment test but there was no sign of alcohol or drugs. She claimed the sun was in her eyes, but as the investigation continued, investigators determined that couldn't be possible because the sun was actually behind her at that time of day.
Troopers asked if she was using her cell phone, which she denied, but this week investigators filed a warrant to obtain all cell phone history from the day of the accident.
"If we have circumstances that no other reasonable explanation can be determined, we're always looking for ways that the collision is caused. That's our goal," Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff Sevigney said.
Sevigney could not comment on the specifics of the accident because it is an on going investigation but did say texting and driving is a serious problem.
"We are continually having to remind folks of the dangers of texting and driving," he said.
Investigators say drivers typically take their eyes off the road an average of two to ten seconds when using their cell phone, enough time for a driver to cross into oncoming traffic.
"Most folks that I come in contact with recognize that it's a distraction, but we get caught up," Sevigney said.
Aside from the apparent dangers it's also illegal in Washington. Drivers caught using their cellular device can face a $124 ticket; if they are involved in an accident $175. If that accident is fatal or causes injuries that would be a felony and could potentially lead to prison time if convicted.
"It's not going to the county jail. It's going to a state prison. There is definitely a stark contrast to the two," Sevigney said.
If phone records she was using her phone at the time of the collision with White, she could be charged with vehicular homicide, a felony.