By now, Seattle residents are likely aware that distracted driving is a problem, both in Washington and around the country. The dangers of distracted driving are also pretty clear; the news is full of reports of people who have been involved in serious, sometimes fatal car accidents due to a driver looking at a phone or being distracted from the task of driving in some other way. But, in reality, how many people are there on the roads who are driving while also dealing with some distraction or another, thereby putting everyone at risk?

While there is no way to have a definitive answer to this question, the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission undertook an attempt to reach an estimate of the number of distracted drivers utilizing the state’s roadways. To do this, it relied on observation teams at sampled intersections in incorporated areas throughout the state. Teams were sent to the sampled intersections to observe and record driver behavior while driving. In the end, over 22,000 drivers were observed across the state, and the numbers can be extrapolated from the sample with a fairly high degree of confidence.

Statewide, over 9 percent of drivers observed were giving in to some form of distraction. In Seattle’s main county, King County, that number was closer to 10 percent. Almost 7 percent of the observed drivers where distracted by a phone, while the other two percent had some other form of distraction. When one takes into account the number of drivers who use the roads in Seattle every day, the 10 percent number can be a bit disconcerting. In short, there are likely hundreds, if not thousands, of distracted drivers on the roads with us. When one of these negligent drivers causes a car accident in which someone is injured, the injured party may have a legal right to compensation.