Being aware that law enforcement officers in Kitsap County were conducting a “Target Zero” campaign last month, aimed at nabbing distracted drivers, I decided to do one of my own.
What I found was not only disturbing but completely mind-blowing.
For several weeks, I decided to pay attention to other drivers and watch their habits. Mostly, I was looking for drivers who were on their phones while driving.
The aim of “Target Zero” is to bring attention to driving while distracted and hopefully remind drivers of the seriousness of trying to do anything else while sitting behind the wheel.
For the record, I will cop to eating nuts or candy while driving and occasionally drinking from my water bottle. I try hard to do these things only while sitting at red lights.
And, in all honesty, I have my cell phone in the passenger seat and if it rings, I will look to see if it is a call from someone that I need to pull over and take. But I never talk on my cell phone while driving and I even go a step farther. I don’t have a “hands free” device because I think driving is a responsibility that needs 100 percent of my attention, 100 percent of the time.
During the five days of the Target Zero campaign, 35 troopers, deputies and officers worked 140 hours on the roads and made contact with 467 drivers who officers felt were distracted in some way.
From that, 286 infractions were written including 141 for cell phone use and 13 for texting or for using other electronic devices. There were other citations given including speeding and seatbelt infractions.
While I am usually only on the road for about an hour in the morning, an hour during the day and another hour driving home from work, I, too, found drivers who were taking some risks that seemed unnecessary and some that seemed way over the line.
In my time on the road, I saw 26 drivers on the phone and another 30-plus who appeared to be texting. I also saw at least a dozen drivers who were eating and drinking, everything from french fries to ice cream.
I saw a man shaving in his rearview mirror and in another vehicle, a woman putting on her mascara and lipstick.
While driving south to Bainbridge on Highway 305 just outside Poulsbo one evening, I saw a woman driving with her elbows, holding a hamburger in her right hand and documents in her left. She was eating, reading and driving all at the same time and not doing a very good job at any of it.
The following morning, on the way to work, I saw a man brushing his teeth while driving. I must admit, I looked away before I could see where he spit.
While all of this sounds scary to a driver like myself who tends to follow the rules, nothing topped what I saw this past weekend.
There she was, the Doggie Mommy, brushing her dog’s teeth while she drove down the street. Now, I’ve seen people drive with dogs in their laps plenty of times, but this was something I’d never seen before … or never even thought about before.
Maybe they were in a hurry to get to doggy daycare and didn’t have time to take care of teeth-brushing before leaving home.
In all seriousness, driving is something that needs full attention. One glance down, or away, or taking your eyes off the road for even a minute can be a life or death decision. It may mean smashing into another vehicle, running over a deer or a dog, or even a child who comes barreling out into the road.
The risk is not worth it. Pay attention to driving while behind the wheel. The rest of all that stuff can wait.
Leslie Kelly is the editor of the Central Kitsap Reporter and the Bremerton Patriot. She lives on Bainbridge Island.