The Washington State Patrol announced a crackdown on distracted driving in King County from Aug. 5-23. During this period, Washington State Patrol officers and local law enforcement agencies will target drivers distracted by the use of handheld cell phones.

"Distracted driving is quickly becoming one of the main reasons for collisions on our roadways. Please help us by keeping our roadways safer by staying alert while driving,” said Lt. Michael Rupert of the Washington State Patrol.

Research by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) showed that from 2009-2012, distracted driver-involved collisions accounted for 20% of all traffic deaths in King County. A study by the University of Utah confirmed that subjects who text while driving are six times more likely to be involved in a collision than a drunk driver.

Distracted driving goes beyond just cellular phone use or texting. Reading, eating and adjusting music are other factors that can affect a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle in a safe manner.

In Washington State, drivers are prohibited from texting or talking on their cellular phones without the use of a hands-free device. The fine for this violation is $124, but the penalty can be increased in the case of a traffic collision. Teens with intermediate driver licenses or learner permits may not use a wireless device at all while driving, including hands-free devices, unless they’re reporting an emergency.

This special patrol is funded by grants from the King County Emergency Medical Services and WTSC with the coordination of the King County Target Zero Task Force.