SB 5289 and HB 1371 introduced in both the House and Senate aim to curb the epidemic of distracted driving across Washington state
This week the transportation committees in both the Senate and House will take up legislation to strengthen our state’s distracted driver laws. In 2007, Washington state became one of the first states to pass a law to place restrictions on distracted driving. Since then, technology has rapidly advanced in the time since these laws were first enacted. Our phones are now used for email, social networking, surfing the internet and so much more. All of these behaviors equate to risky distractions. 2014 and 2015 saw attempts to pass legislation — most recently in 2015 by Sen. Rivers and Rep. Farrell.
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. Washington is experiencing a steady increase in distracted driving deaths. In 2016 they made up a third of all traffic fatalities.
Driving distracted poses a significant threat to people in vehicles and to vulnerable users, like people biking and walking. Distracted drivers are the cause of an increasing share of fatalities found among pedestrians and bicycle riders. Reducing distracted driving helps create a culture of safety for drivers and the most vulnerable road 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.
Families who have been changed forever by distracted driving plan to testify in Olympia this week, including the family of Sam Thompson who in 2014 picked up his phone and responded to a text message while headed to an appointment in Colfax, WA. Immediately after the text, Sam’s car veered across the center line into oncoming traffic resulting in a fatal head-on collision with a semi-truck. He would have turned 21 the following week.
Since their tragic loss, Sam’s family have worked to raise awareness by making highway signs warning against texting and driving, speaking to high school students, and working with Washington State Department of Transportation on public safety campaigns. This week it’s Sam’s family’s turn to tell their story to legislators who can make a difference by strengthening laws that improve enforcement and sharpen penalties to deter drivers from distraction.
Join us to make some common-sense improvements to Washington state’s distracted driving laws. Keep in touch by signing up to Washington Bikes’ alerts to pass this important safety legislation.