An insurance comparison website says that Edmonds has the highest rate of distracted driving in the state, but Edmonds police say the results may be skewed due to the way the city’s police handle their collision investigations.
QuoteWizard based its rankings on per-capita crash figures from the Washington State Department of Transportation. In 2017 — the most recent year for which complete statistics are available — there were 276 distracted-driving crashes in Edmonds.
According to the report, “the frequency of distracted driving accidents (in Edmonds) is nearly double that of SeaTac, the next city on the list, and almost triple that of neighboring Lynnwood.”
However, Edmonds police spokesman Sgt. Shane Hawley says that the city’s No.-1 ranking may be a result of how Edmonds police investigate collision investigations.
“We were surprised at the fact they have us listed with a distraction rate twice that of the No. 2 city,” Hawley said.
State Department of Transportation data is collected from collision reports that police generate when an officer responds to a collision call, Hawley said. The officer writes a collision report, which includes a section specifically designed to track the causes of collisions. There are three available boxes to input data, per vehicle, on the form, he explained.
“Driver distractions is one area our officers specifically look at when investigating collisions,” Hawley said. “We make sure, during the report approval process, that the appropriate driver distraction codes are checked (including distractions). This is an area we focus on, but it is important to note that the distracted driving codes in that section may not be a focus of all law enforcement agencies. We believe the numbers are so much higher because we specifically focus on distracted driving as part of our standard collision investigation process.”
Hawley noted that the police department’s traffic unit will be conducting a distracted driving emphasis as part of a Target Zero initiative in May.
According to the survey, 11,504 distracted-driving crashes happened in Washington in 2017, with 87 fatalities.
SeaTac had the second-highest rate of distracted driving crashes per capita in the state, with 115 crashes and a population of about 29,000 people.