Updated on: 4/1/2019
It’s easy to find a distracted driver in Washington state. And it's significantly easier in some cities than others.
In July 2017, Washington state’s new distracted driving law went into effect. The law makes it illegal to use a handheld personal electronic device (cell phone) while driving. Even if you’re stopped in traffic. First-time violators of the law face a $136 fine.
To help spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, the National Safety Council, along with countless safety organizations in the United States, sponsors Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April of each year. Despite the efforts of educators, law enforcement, and countless non-profits, the problem of distracted driving persists, and some Washington cities are especially prone to the devastating consequences that result from serious car accidents.
A AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study determined that texting and visual-manual tasks increase the odds of crash involvement by 83 percent.
Given their size, it’s obvious that Washington’s largest cities like Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane experience the most total distracted driving crashes and deaths. However, when you look at the numbers as a percentage of all crashes — regardless of the cause — the results are surprising.
Based on five years of collision data, Davis Law Group has ranked the top 10 most dangerous cities in Washington for distracted driving.
For complete details on the methodology used to rank these cities, click here.
MAP: Washington State's Most Distracted Drivers
This interactive map shows the percentage of fatal/serious injury crashes between 2013 and 2017 that involved a distracted driver. Click on a city to see the underlying numbers. Larger circles = higher rate of distracted driver crashes. You can drag the map if needed.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 30.77
Sammamish tops our list of the most dangerous Washington cities for distracted driving. In 2015, 15.9 percent of all motor vehicle deaths and injuries in the United States involved a distracted driver. But in Sammamish, despite having a small population of 52,253, four of the 13 total crashes over the past five years involved a distracted driver. That’s nearly double the national average.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 17.02
To find the No. 2 city on our list we go to Lakewood, a city of 59,829 people located just outside Tacoma. Lakewood is home to 94 total serious injury or fatal crashes over the past five years, 16 of which involved a distracted driver.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 14.54
The largest city in Snohomish County, Everett comes in at No. 3 for most distracted drivers in Washington. With a population of 108,010, Everett saw 227 serious or fatal crashes on its roadways from 2013-17, 33 of which involved a distracted driver. While 2017 was a good year for Everett (two bad distracted driver crashes), 2014 and 2016 were bad with 11 and 10, respectively.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 13.97
Bellevue — a city of 139,820 people across Lake Washington from Seattle — comes in at No. 4 on our list. The main Eastside hub for local transit, Bellevue beats out its big brother to the West when it comes to distracted driving.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 12.90
At No. 5 is Marysville, one of the fastest-growing cities in Washington state. After having zero serious or fatal distracted driving-involved crashes in 2013, Marysville had three in 2017, putting it firmly in the top 10 of our list.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 12.51
Unfortunately, our home and the largest city in Washington clocks in at No. 6 on our list of Washington cities with the most distracted driving crashes. The Emerald City saw 1,031 serious injury or fatal crashes from 2013-17, with 129 involving a distracted driver. Since 2013, the city of Seattle has seen an 53.8% increase in these preventable incidents.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 11.79
Tacoma — a city of 207,948 people as of 2015 — is our No. 7 city for distracted driving. And the problem seems to be getting worse here in Pierce County. After just seven total distracted driving crashes in 2013-14, the rate spiked from 2015-17. In the past three years, there have been 11, 15, and 15 such crashes, respectively.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 10.34
Home of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, Spokane checks in at No. 8 on our list. The Lilac City, situated along the Spokane River west of the Rocky Mountain foothills in eastern Washington, sees 7.2 distracted driving crashes per year within its borders. Interstate 90, which rans east-west from Seattle, passes through Spokane.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 10.29
The city of Pasco comes in at No. 9. One of three cities that make up the Tri-Cities region of the state of Washington, Pasco saw seven distracted driving crashes from 2013-17. With 68 total serious crashes during that time period, Pasco — a city of 69,451 — can challenge the larger cities on this list when it comes to distracted driving.
#10 Spokane Valley
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 10.19
Rounding out the top 10 on our list is Spokane Valley, a city with a population of 94,919. Spokane Valley is the site of about 22 serious injury or fatal crashes per year, and on average, 2.2 of those involve a distracted driver.
The Bottom 5 Cities
Not every city in Washington state is notorious for distracted drivers. Each of the following cities of 50,000-plus people had two distracted driving-involved crashes from 2013-17.
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 1.71
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 2.86
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 3.51
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 3.64
% of crashes involving a distracted driver: 3.85
Various Types of Distracted Driving
Texting while driving has always been a focal point for traffic safety advocates because – although there are a number of different types of distracting behavior – it requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, making it “by far the most alarming distraction,” according to the NHTSA.
Other forms of driver distraction include:
- Talking on cell phone
- Web browsing on a smart phone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Self care/grooming
- Reading maps or books
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a movie
- Adjusting radio or CD player
Texting while driving increases a driver’s risk of being involved in an accident 23 times in comparison to drivers who are not distracted. And sending or receiving a text message at a speed of at least 55 mph takes a driver’s eyes off the road for almost five seconds, enough time to drive the length of a football field.
The Davis Law Group is a proud supporter of Distracted Driving Awareness Month and encourages all drivers to refrain from using a cell phone behind the wheel.
- Using WSDOT Crash Data Portal we obtained city-level Washington state crash data for all serious injury or fatal distracted driving-involved crashes over five years, from 2013 to 2017.
- We narrowed the list of cities down to only those with a population of over 50,000 people as of 2015 (24 cities).
- We then compared that data to the total number of serious injury or fatality car accidents involving all drivers. What we got was the percentage of crashes involving a distracted driver in each city.