The Evergreen State is famous for mountain ranges, rain forests, and islands. But the epic scenery isn’t what’s distracting drivers in this state. Phones, food, music, and passengers offer their fair share of distraction on the road.
According to WSDOT, in 2017 there were 11,504 distracted driving crashes in the state, 87 of which were fatal. It’s clear that distracted driving is a problem in Washington state. Even though it’s illegal, people are still driving distracted.
Our 2018 study on America’s best and worst drivers found that Washington is the tenth-worst driving state in the country. And distracted driving plays a role in that ranking.
But where in Washington is distracted driving at its worst? How distracted is your city? We ranked cities in Washington with the highest rate of distracted driving accidents. See how your city stacks up to the rest of the state.
These are the 15 cities in Washington with the highest rate of distracted driving crashes:
- Mountlake Terrace
- Mount Vernon
- Moses Lake
Located 15 miles north of Seattle, Edmonds is home to over 42,000 people. It's also home to the highest rate of distracted driving crashes in all of Washington, according to population and incident rates. In 2017, there were 276 distracted driving accidents in Edmonds. Luckily, none of those accidents resulted in fatalities. The frequency of distracted driving accidents is nearly double that of SeaTac, the next city on the list, and almost triple that of neighboring Lynnwood.
Home to Washington’s major airport, SeaTac has plenty of traffic both in the air and on the road. Maybe those roaring planes flying overhead are distracting people on the road. Or perhaps it’s the stop-and-go traffic that causes commuters to check their phones. Either way, SeaTac has the second-highest frequency of distracted driving crashes in WA. In 2017, SeaTac’s 29,000-plus population caused 115 distracted driving incidents, resulting in one fatality.
Tacoma’s location, just south of Seattle along I5, means many residents commute often. And long commutes in stop and go traffic are the perfect time to get distracted. That's part of why Tacoma has the third highest frequency of distracted driving crashes in the stat. In 2017, Tacoma’s 200,000 plus residents got into 661 distracted driving incidents in Tacoma, resulting in two fatalities.
Just south of it's distracted driving neighboor Tacoma on I-5, you’ll pass directly through Lakewood. This town is home to over 60,000 residents. While the town is filled with beautiful lakes, it’s apparently also home to quite a few distracted drivers. Lakewood saw 181 distracted driving crashes in 2017, two of which resulted in fatalities. Making the south sound one of the more dangerous parts to drive in.
Everett is infamous to Washingtonians as a terrible place to be during rush hour. Not only is gridlocked traffic a huge waste of time, it’s also dangerous. Slow traffic brings a false sense of safety that makes drivers feel comfortable enough to send a text or fix their hair. According to a recent study by INRIX, Everett drivers spent more time in traffic than anywhere else, with a congestion rate of 28 percent on highways in and out of the city. That same year, there were 249 distracted driving incidents amongst Everett’s population of over 110,000. Thankfully, none resulted in fatalities.
Neighboring Edmonds, Washington’s most distracted driving city, Lynnwood also has a rep for inattentive drivers. Luckily, the city is taking action. In December of 2017, the Lynnwood Police Department initiated a month-long, department-wide enforcement emphasis on distracted driving. But 2017 saw Lynwood’s population of 38,273 cause 82 distracted driving incidents. Lynwood is joined by Edmonds and Everett in the top 6, making the north sound area nearly as dangerous as the south sound cities.
7. Mountlake Terrace
Yet another town north of Seattle that makes the cut as a top distracted driving city! Mountlake Terrace has the smallest population on the list, with just over 21,000 residents. In 2017, there were 42 distracted driving incidents in Mountlake Terrace.
Although Bellevue earned the title of seventh safest driving city in Washington in 2018, WSDOT data showed the city has a high rate of distracted drivers. In Bellevue, one in four drivers involved in a fatal or serious-injury crash are under 25-years-old. That’s why leaders with the City of Bellevue, Bellevue School District, and Washington DECA partnered to target distracted driving among teens in the area. This movement is connected to Bellevue’s Vision Zero project, which aims to reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries on city roads to zero by the year 2030. In 2017, there were 277 distracted driving incidents in Bellevue, resulting in zero fatalities amongst Bellevue’s 144,000+ residents.
Part of the Seattle metropolitan area, Bothell has just over 45,500 residents. This is the fourth town north of Seattle to make the cut as one of the top ten cities with the highest frequency of distracted crashes. What’s up with all these towns North of Seattle getting distracted behind the wheel? There were 85 distracted driving incidents in Bothell in 2017, resulting in zero fatalities.
The largest city in the state, Seattle is a hub for tourists and locals alike. Like most large cities, Seattle is constantly buzzing with people and there are plenty of cars on the road. There were 1,347 distracted driving incidents amongst Seattle’s population of over 720,000 people. Despite this, Seattle earned the title of the ninth safest driving city in Washington in our 2018 study.
11. Mount Vernon
You may have driven through Mount Vernon to catch a glimpse of the famous tulip festival in spring. Or you may have passed through on your way up to British Columbia. Or maybe you live there. Regardless, Mount Vernon gets plenty of drivers traveling through their town, making it the most distracted driving city in NW Washington.
Another town south of Seattle to make the list, Tumwater rolls in with the 12th highest rate of distracted driving crashes in WA. The town is home to 22,973 people, with 42 distracted driving incidents happening in 2017.
Longview earned the title of the tenth safest driving city in Washington in our 2018 study but ranks as one of the most distracted driving-prone cities in the state. In 2017, there were 67 distracted driving incidents in Longview amongst the town’s 37,602 residents. Making it the only south western Washington city to make the top 15.
14. Moses Lake
The only Eastern Washington town to make our list, Moses Lake takes the title of the 14th most distracted driving city in the state. There were 41 distracted driving incidents in Moses Lake amongst the town’s 23,000 plus residents in 2017. Luckily, police in the Moses Lake area are increasing patrols for distracted drivers.
The only city on the Kitsap Peninsula to make the list, Bremerton is home to an estimated 41,041 people. Bremerton police recognize the importance of enforcing distracted driving laws, hopefully causing residents to be more attentive behind the wheel. In 2017, Bremerton had 66 distracted driving incidents, resulting in one fatality.
Distracted Driving in America
Every day in the US, around nine people are killed and more than 1,000 people are injured in a car accident caused by distracted driving. Clearly, distracted driving is a cause for severe crashes across the country, not just Washington. Distracted driving includes any actions that divert your attention from the road:
- chatting with passengers
- Fiddling with the stereo
- Doing hair or makeup
These actions can only take seconds, but the resulting accident can impact you and others for a lifetime.
Many states have enacted laws that work toward banning distracted driving practices. Most of these laws include prohibiting cell phone use behind the wheel. Even with most states cracking down, approximately 481,000 drivers use cell phones on the road during daylight hours. Distracted driving is, unfortunately, a reality on roads across America.
How Distracted Driving Impacts Insurance Rates
If you live in a city with an abundance of distracted drivers, your rates are probably higher because of it. That’s because insurance companies adjust your insurance rates based on the patterns of drivers in your area. Even if you’re a good driver who stays focused on the road, your distracted neighbors could cause your rates to skyrocket. The more distracted drivers you share the road with, the higher the chances that you’ll be involved in an accident-- even if it isn’t you fault. Insurance companies charge more in areas with high accident rates.
If you’re one of those distracted drivers and have a bad driving record because of it, check out auto insurance companies that cover high-risk and bad drivers. The best way for all drivers to combat high prices is to stop texting and stay safe on the road.
We sampled 2017 distracted driving crash data from the Washington State Department of Transportation and paired it with 2017 Census estimated population figures from the top 50 cities in Washington State. The resulting rankings are the 15 cities with the highest rate of distracted driving incidents.
Top 50 Rankings
|Ranking (Most Distracted)||City|