With school back in session, more teens-some having just obtained their driver’s license-are driving on Washington’s roads. In this technological time of instant communication, many teens cannot resist the lure of texting their friends on their cellphones. Unfortunately, many teens choose to do this while driving, which often leads to disastrous results.

With this in mind, the Washington State Patrol and the Seattle Police Department have teamed up with King County Emergency Medical Services to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving-specifically using a cellphone while driving. Since school started, more children are walking alongside the road and using crosswalks. The education program aims to prevent the tragic consequences that can occur when a driver takes his or her eyes off the road to respond to a text message.

Distracted driving is a major cause of car accidents nationwide. The National Safety Council estimates that over 100,000 crashes each year is caused by texting while driving. According to the Washington Traffic Commission (WTC), distracted driving is a major problem in the Seattle area as well. According to commission statistics, in King County alone, distracted driving was responsible for one-fifth of fatal car accidents over the past four years.

The danger to other drivers and pedestrians that distracted drivers pose is well documented. The WTC says that drivers who text while they are driving are six times more likely to be involved in an accident than a drunk driver. In fact, the commission said that texting while driving is equivalent to driving with a .16 blood alcohol level-twice the legal limit in Washington.

The danger of distracted driving is not limited to texting. According to the commission, using a cellphone-whether handheld or hands free-while driving delays a driver’s reaction as much as having a blood alcohol level of .08.

Consult an Attorney

In Washington, any person who uses a handheld cellphone or sends, reads or composes a text message while driving is guilty of a traffic infraction. In addition, Washington law prohibits teen drivers under the age of 18 from texting or using any type of cellphone-whether handheld or hands free.

In addition to criminal penalties, a driver who injures another while using a cellphone or texting is likely to face civil penalties as well. Under the law, drivers have a duty to drive reasonably under the circumstances. If they fail to do this, they are considered negligent and can be held liable for the damages that they caused such as property damages and medical expenses.

If you or a loved one have been injured by a negligent driver, contact an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can investigate the causes of the accident, advise you of your rights and work to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions.