Lawmakers to Put Backbone in “Driving while Texting” Prohibition

Washington’s outdated and under-enforced cellphones-in-the-car law could soon become one of the strongest in the nation. Dan Frizzell has that story.

When Washington banned texting while driving, or holding a cell phone to your ear behind the wheel a decade ago, those were about the only things you could do with a cellphone.  The first iPhone was still a few months away, Facebook and Twitter were babies, and Instagram didn’t exist. Since then drivers have discovered countless technically legal ways to take their eyes and attention away from the road, and distracted drivers now cause about a third of all traffic fatalities.  State representative Jessyn Farrell and more than a dozen cosponsors from both parties and both chambers of the Legislature hope to modernize that outdated law this year with the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act.  Farrell, a Democrat from Seattle, explains.

FARRELL: “You are as impaired while engaging with your phone, looking down, holding it, typing into it, as you could be while above legal limits for alcohol in your body.  It’s that distracting to your brain. We have an epidemic of driving while under the influence of electronics and we need to interrupt that behavior and make our roads more safe.”

The new bill hikes the current fine and doubles it for the second infraction.  And unlike the old law, the ticket would be reported to a driver’s insurance company, resulting in a likely increase in premiums.  Farrell’s bill is already in the pipeline and is slated for a public hearing in the House Transportation Committee.  In Olympia, I’m Dan Frizzell.