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Friday, March 1, 2024

Washington State Is Serious About Distracted Drivers

Drivers just haven’t gotten it. They haven’t got that using electronics while driving is as socially unacceptable as drunk driving. Therefore in an effort to change the perception, Washington State is going to call it what it is, Driving Under the Influence of Electronics. In the upcoming 2017 legislative session, Washington lawmakers seek to ban virtually all use of handheld devices by motorists. The law was drafted by State Representative Jessyn Farrell and Senator Ann Rivers.

The current law bars texting and holding the phone to your ear but doesn’t address using apps or the camera.

The proposed law bans holding the phone in your hand and increases the current $124 fine for using handheld devices behind the wheel to $350, Rivers said. She also wants citations reported to courts and insurance companies.

Hands-free communication, such as using Bluetooth technology, would remain legal in the 2017 version, Rivers said. “What’s not going to be OK is for you to pick up your phone and tweet, look at Instagram and Snapchat.”

In Washington, distracted-driving deaths jumped from 130 in 2014 to 171 in 2015, and was nearly a third of the overall 556 traffic fatalities in 2016.

A tougher crackdown is being proposed in Oregon.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, hopes to treat distraction like driving drunk. Nonemergency use of a handheld device would trigger at least a $1,000 fine, or $1,500 on the second offence. A third strike would be a felony punishable by up to a year in prison. If children are in the car, the offending driver could be fined $10,000.