On Tuesday, Washington Bikes testified in support of Senate Bill 6227 to further strengthen our state’s distracted driving laws and to retain our status as a leader in pursuing safer streets. This new legislation, led by Senate Transportation co-chair Tracey Eide, builds upon her 2010 legislation, SB 6345, that made handheld cell phone use while driving a primary offense.
This legislation is a part of Washington Bikes’ 2014 legislative agenda. Contact your state senators to tell them you support closing loopholes and strengthening penalties on driving distracted in Washington state.
Since 2010, when Washington Bikes helped lead the successful lobbying to start to reduce distracted driving, it’s even more obvious that distracted driving affects all of us. Distraction contributes to 26% of fatal crashes in Washington state. This legislation helps close loopholes and stiffens penalties to reduce this growing concern, especially as smart phones become more and more central to people’s lives.
In fact, a new study by Harborview’s Dr. Beth Ebel shows that electronic distraction is growing, with nearly one out of every ten Washington state drivers engaged with a handheld device at any moment.
Reducing distracted driving helps create a culture of safety for drivers and the most vulnerable roads users – children, pedestrians, and bicyclists. The risks around distraction can be more intense because bicyclists and pedestrians – including children – are less visible and more prone to go unnoticed by distracted drivers, with tragic consequences.
SB 6227 improves upon the current law by broadening the definition so that any person (with much narrower exceptions) operating a motor vehicle while holding a personal wireless communications device is guilty of a traffic infraction. It closes loopholes such as being able to use one’s phone while stopped at an intersection or stoplight (currently legal), it also expands the definitions of handheld uses to ban texting and email use on smart phones. Additional violations receive twice the penalty, plus violations go on one’s driver record for insurance purposes. Finally, distracted driving would be included in Department of Licensing exams (currently they are not).
These are common sense fixes that provide law enforcement more tools to stop distracted driving and to stiffen consequences.
It’s now time to improve Washington state’s distracted driving laws. Contact your state senators to tell them you support closing loopholes and strengthening penalties on driving distracted in Washington state.
In addition to support from Washington Bikes, Tuesday’s work session and testimony featured support from the Washington State Patrol, Washington State Traffic Safety Commission, Childhood Obesity Prevention and others. The entire work session and testimony video is included below.