Distracted driving penalties could increase statewide

first_imgOLYMPIA — Lawmakers heard emotional testimony this week from people who lost friends and family members in car accidents caused by drivers distracted by their phones. They are among many who want to make it illegal to hold any hand-held device while driving and ensure offenders receive harsher penalties.Measures in the House and the Senate would ban the use of any hand-held devices while driving including phones, tablets and other electronic devices that could impair a person’s attention while on the road. The proposal would also double the fine, which is currently $136 if caught texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving. But it can be difficult to prove a driver is doing so, said Sgt. James Prouty of the Washington State Patrol.Currently, if a driver is pulled over for texting but tells the officer that they were typing in a phone number to make a call, they’re not in violation of the law, Prouty said. “It definitely causes some difficulty in the enforcement,” he said.House Bill 1371 would expand the current law so drivers would not be allowed to hold any personal electronic device with their hands while driving, with the exception of amateur radios and to conduct “minimal use of a finger” to activate programs like a navigation system or Siri on the iPhone.The bill attempts to make people pay attention and to simplify the law, said sponsor Rep. Jessyn Farrell, a Democrat from Seattle.“Phones should still be functional, we should still be able to use them, but we just need to do it in a way that’s safer,” Farrell said. “The goal really is to make people stop looking down, typing and reading because that is what’s really interrupting peoples’ concentration and leading to increased accidents.”last_img

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