In Washington State it is against the law to hold a cell phone to your ear and chat on the phone. Texting and driving? That’s also illegal. But there’s currently no law on the book against checking Instagram on your tablet, sending a Snap-chat or even perusing your Facebook account while driving. Yet all of these activities and behaviors are equally dangerous. One cannot simply watch the road and a smart phone at the same time and drive responsibly. In fact, even just speaking on the phone with a headset has been deemed dangerous because one’s mind is not focusing on driving and the roadway; instead, it’s focusing and thinking about the conversation and the call.
The Washington legislature (HB 1371 and SB 5289) is therefore introducing legislation that makes illegal the operation of a cell phone or electronic device with more than one finger. In other words, you can’t hold your phone and take photos, send emails or scroll through your Instagram account. The legislation, called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act, also increases the fine for distracted driving and issues even harsher penalties for repeat offenses. Even more problematic is that a citation for distracted driving will now be reported to your insurance company and go on your driving record.
The proposed legislation follows a disturbing increase in the number of distracted driving deaths on our roadways. From 2013 to 2015, deaths on our roadways stemming from distracted driving jumped nearly 32%. We all want safer roads, and we certainly want all of our families and loved ones to avoid serious injury or injuring others. This legislation is a step in the right direction.
Ken Selander is a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney in Seattle who handles cases involving injured persons from careless and distracted drivers. Ken has spoken at local area high schools on the topic of distracted driving in conjunction with the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation. Ken is available to speak at your school upon request.