A measure that would have banned drivers from sending emails and searching the Web won’t advance in the Legislature. The bans on texting and talking on a handheld cellphone remain in place.
OLYMPIA — A measure that would have banned drivers from sending emails and searching the Web while driving won’t advance in the Legislature.
Senate Bill 5656, which would have expanded Washington’s ban on driving while texting or talking on a handheld cellphone, passed the Senate 35-14 this year but has stalled in the state House.
“I’m disappointed my bill isn’t moving forward this year,” Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, said Wednesday in a statement.
“As I researched the necessity for this law I discovered how prevalent and how dangerous distracted driving, particularly with youth drivers, has become,” she said.
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Rivers added that she plans to reintroduce the legislation next year.
Under the bill, drivers would have no longer been able to hold, read from or manually enter information into a wireless-communications device while driving except in emergencies or if the vehicle was pulled off the road and not moving. The ban extended to when a car is stopped at a traffic light or stop sign.
The bill had the support of the Washington State Patrol. In 2013, troopers stopped 2,531 drivers suspected of texting and gave citations to 1,216, according to 2013 data from the State Patrol.
In 2007, Washington was one of the first states to enact a ban on texting or talking on a handheld cellphone while operating a moving vehicle. Thirteen states now outlaw use of handheld phones, and 44 states bar sending texts, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Phone technology has evolved since Washington lawmakers approved the texting ban, and drivers for years have been surfing the Web, and using GPS and Twitter. Rivers’ bill would have allowed a hands-free mode to make calls or use GPS functions.
Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island and chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee told The (Everett) Herald that votes for the bill “just weren’t there.”
Members understood the dangers posed by distracted drivers, but, “When you go to someone and say you’re not going to be able to pick up your phone in the car, you get a different reaction,” Clibborn said.