Distracted driving laws should be tougher

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category icon Columns, Opinion

Initial legislation governing the use of hand-held cell phones while driving was first enacted in Washington in 2007.

Three years later, laws for making and taking calls and text messaging while driving gained some teeth. Legislation was passed that made these primary, instead of secondary, offenses and allowed police to issue $124 tickets for this violation alone.

At the time, these were good steps forward. But seven years later these laws and monetary penalties just aren’t enough.

During the past decade, the electronic world has seen the increased popularity of sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as the advent of Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms.

Today, it’s not at all uncommon to see drivers talking on their cell phones; viewing, writing and sending text messages; and looking at their cell phone screens for a variety of other reasons.

Statistics support this notion distracted driving is a big problem in communities across the nation. According to U.S. government research, in 2014 3,179 people were killed and 431,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.

With these startling numbers in mind, work is currently being done to address this issue.

According to an article recently published in The Seattle Times, Sen. Ann Rivers (R-La Center) and Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle), are sponsoring a bill called the “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act,” that is being proposed for the 2017 legislative session. The bi-partisan duo is aiming to toughen outdated distracted driving laws.

The proposed legislation would ban drivers’ use of all handheld devices, and potentially increase the fine to $350 with violations reported to insurance companies.

Clearly, something needs to be done. The time for tougher distracted driving legislation has come, and should be supported vigorously by our state’s lawmakers.