It’s an issue that unites Washingtonians of all backgrounds, because everybody wants safer roads. Who would argue that drivers ought to be able to Facebook as they commute to work or drive their kids to school?
IN Washington state, texting and driving is against the law. So is holding a cellphone to your ear while driving.
But there’s no law against checking Facebook or sending a Snapchat from behind the wheel, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. How is using an app while driving less dangerous than sending a text or making a phone call?
The answer is, it isn’t. It is just as dangerously distracting, and in some cases even more so.
As technology has advanced, our laws haven’t kept up. While our hands are busy tapping and scrolling on our phones, the hands of law enforcement are tied when it comes to issuing citations for these behaviors.
That’s why, together, we’re aiming to update our state’s distracted driving law to better reflect how people actually use their devices.
We’ve introduced the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act. It’s a crucial step toward making our roads safer for drivers, passengers, and pedestrians all over the state. In the House, the bill is HB 1371. In the Senate, it is SB 5289.
This issue has drawn the support of legislators from both sides of the aisle, and it’s one that unites Washingtonians of all backgrounds, because everybody wants safer roads. Who would argue that drivers ought to be able to Facebook as they commute to work or drive their kids to school?
As much as we all love the convenience our devices provide, we also, at the end of the day, just want to get home safely. And we want our loved ones to get home safely, too.
Unfortunately, distracted driving deaths on our roads have increased sharply. From 2013 to 2015, the number of deaths jumped by nearly 32 percent.
One of those deaths was Cody Meyer, a 23-year-old flagger at a construction site who died from injuries sustained when he was hit by a distracted driver on the job. The driver had been checking his phone just seconds before the accident occurred.
As legislators, we hear a lot of tragic stories that spur loved ones to lobby for new laws or changes to current laws, so what happened to them won’t happen to someone else. But some of the saddest stories we hear are the ones where a tragedy could very well have been prevented. Cody’s story is one of those.
His mom, Tina, is determined to push for change. We are determined as well.
The Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act will help prevent tragedies on our roads by banning drivers from operating a phone or any electronic device with more than one finger. This means you can’t hold your phone — even in one hand — and scroll your social-media feeds, or take a photo or send an email.
It also increases the fine for distracted driving, doubling it for repeat offenses. In addition, a citation for distracted driving would go on your driving record and be reported to insurance companies. This is new, and should really make people think twice about sending that tweet or posting that photo to Instagram. It’s one thing to pay a fine, but it’s another thing to pay a fine and higher insurance rates.
We acknowledge bad habits can sometimes be hard to change, and we know passing this bill doesn’t mean distracted driving accidents would never happen in our state.
But it’s way past time we strengthened a law that puts more people at risk for what it’s not doing. And right now, it’s not protecting us from people who are — legally — driving distracted alongside us on our roads.
We believe this is a common-sense measure to address a serious problem. The Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act can be a bipartisan victory this year, bringing people together around the issues of public safety and saving lives.