Troopers crack down on distracted drivers

Troopers crack down on distracted drivers

SPOKANE, Wash. - Click it or Ticket ran from May 19 to June 1 and netted nearly almost 600 citations between Spokane, Whitman, Pend Oreille and Ferry counties.

A statewide campaign since 2002, the focus has shifted from seatbelts to other issues with drivers behind the wheel.

"We focus on the distracted driving violations. texting, talking on your cell phone," said Trooper Greg Birkeland of the Washington State Patrol.

Why is it important? Birkeland says it's important for drivers to remember they are behind the wheel of what he calls a 2,000 pound killing machine.

"If you are not in complete control things happen in a split second," he said.

Since the campaign started, seat belt use in Washington has gone from 82-percent to 97-percent, one of the highest in the country. During the two-week campaign an additional 370 extra patrol hours are put in on a round-the-clock basis.

"We have certain areas that we target, and typically they are the congested areas," Birkeland said, adding that seat belt and texting violations can be some of the most difficult to spot.

"Depending on the car, the seat belt, tinted windows can make it difficult," he said.

During this year's campaign, 286 seat belt infractions and 70 cell phone and texting tickets were written in Spokane, Pend Orielle, Ferry and Whitman counties. The results are slightly less than last years but the state says it's progress toward zero fatalities by 2030.

"That's a goal and that's what we strive for each and every day so as long as we are making a difference each day and proving those numbers, there's no reason at some point we won't achieve that goal," Birkeland said.