Put down your phone and drive: New senate bill aims to cut down distracted driving

by Samantha Lund, News Editor

Texting or making a phone call while driving is illegal in Washington State. When pulled over for texting, a person could claim to be checking directions and get off without any ticket.

New legislation is being promoted in the Washington Senate to outlaw cell phone use completely while operating a vehicle. The new bill will not only make it illegal to use a cell phone, but would also put such infractions on a driver’s record for insurance companies and employers to see.

In a study done for U.S. News, 80 percent of college students text while driving, and according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nine people are killed each day texting and driving while more than 1,000 people are injured.

The current Washington law treats these infractions like parking tickets and simply paying the fine will make the ticket go away. Senate Bill 5656 will also increase the penalty amount for offenders.

Currently, a texting and driving violation costs the offender $124 for each offense. With the new law, the cost would increase second offense costs to $209.

Senate Bill 5656 was first proposed Jan. 28 in a Senate hearing and was then referred to the Senate Transportation Committee on Feb. 9.

Heading the bill is Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center, Wash. When Sen. Rivers proposed the bill initially, there was no testimony against it.

“I drive a minimum of 400 miles a week on I-5,” Rivers said. “The number of folks that I see participating in risky behavior is astounding.”

Rivers is sponsoring this bill because she wants to see safer roads for everyone.

“Two weeks ago, I passed someone who had their iPad propped on the steering wheel and streaming a video,” Rivers said.

The Washington State Transportation Commission is supporting the bill along with the Washington State Patrol and many private citizens, Rivers said. The bill is not meant to be a stepping-stone to more bills and it is meant to benefit everyone.

“It is my hope that by passing stiffer penalties and raising the stakes for those who choose to disobey common sense, we will appeal to personal economics to drive good decision making,” Rivers said.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need legislation to attempt to force people to be responsible,” Rivers said. “We do not, however, live in that world.”

Rivers sees challenges coming up in passing the bill, such as getting the public to support it. Keeping the challenges in mind, Rivers said the bill will be tough but worth passing for everyone’s safety.

Rivers says the bill will affect both adults and teens equally, however, teens make up the majority of distracted drivers.

According to Edgar Snyder Law Firm’s accident study, teens between 15 and 19 make up the largest portion of distracted drivers. Teen drivers are also four times more likely to get into an accident while talking or texting than adult drivers.
More information on Senate Bill 5656 can be found at: http://app.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.

Samantha Lund

Samantha Lund was the Editor in Chief at The Mast, a student-run newsroom within Pacific Lutheran University, in 2015-16. Lund created Mast Magazine in 2015 to give students a forum for long form news pieces. She could be found writing for Pacific Lutheran University's Marketing and Communication site plu.edu or interning at MOViN 92.9's morning talk show in Seattle. Other places to find her content include: Alaska Airlines blog and website, The News Tribune and The Bremerton Harald.

Leave a Reply