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Texting and driving? Gig Harbor patrols are watching you

Despite laws in Washington state aimed at reducing distracted driving, it appears many drivers still believe they can multitask and talk or text on the phone. Studies have shown that multitasking lowers your ability and can be dangerous.
Despite laws in Washington state aimed at reducing distracted driving, it appears many drivers still believe they can multitask and talk or text on the phone. Studies have shown that multitasking lowers your ability and can be dangerous. Dallas Morning News file

In an countywide effort to curb distracted drivers and to educate the public, the Gig Harbor Police Department is planning to dedicate patrol time this weekend to focus on those who are caught texting and driving.

Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey said the department has received county funds to help the focused patrol, who have written a number of tickets in the past month.

“I don’t have the exact numbers right now,” Busey said. “But it would be north of 60 so far.”

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The Citizens Academy “is is a great way to bring awareness to the community about what we do,” said Gig Harbor Police Chief Kelly Busey LEE GILES III Staff photographer

The new distracted driving state law took effect in July. Unlike past laws, this includes anyone holding a mobile device while operating a vehicle.

“It used to be people could get away with it if they were just answering a call or checking the time,” Busey said. “But now you can’t do that.”

Gig Harbor police will continue patrols for distracted driving this weekend. Busey said he believes the number of tickets are high because driving with a phone is a habit many people need to break.

“It’s a bad habit,” Busey said. “This is definitely a safety initiative. We have too many accidents because of distracted driving.”

If a driver is pulled over for distracted driving, they could face a fine of $136. That fine doubles if someone is caught a second time. Distracted driving tickets also appear on a the driver's state licensing record.

There are a few exceptions to the distracted driving rule, including;

  • A driver who is using a personal electronic device to contact emergency services, such a 911.

  • The use of a system by a transit system employee for time-sensitive relay communication between the transit system employee and the transit system's dispatch services.

  • An individual employed as a commercial motor vehicle driver who uses a personal electronic device within the scope of such individual's employment.

  • A person operating an authorized emergency vehicle.

Busey said there is enough dangerous elements to driving and he hopes having less distracted drivers on the road will lower the number of accidents in the city.

“Replying to a text message for just 20 seconds means you can drive over 100 yards,” Busey said. “That’s a long distance and things can happen.”

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie
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