Using a phone or electronic device while driving can be just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Washington State is hoping to pass legislation lowering the impulse many drivers have each day to reach for the phone. The number of deaths has continued to consistently rise over the past years. In 2015, the death toll from distracted driving (171) increased by more than 30% when compared to 2014 (130).
House Bill 1371 is hoping to decrease this number by increasing penalties for distracted drivers. The legislation is also called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act. Currently, the only Washington law in place restricts drivers from texting while driving. There is no other type of legislation that bans the use of phones. Those who sponsored the bill call it “a flip-phone law in the smartphone era.” Larry Shannon, a government affairs director of the Washington State Association for Justice, attended a public hearing this past February and noticed “an unusual coalition of interests came together to support [the new legislation].” Most have encountered a distracted driver and know how dangerous it can be. According to Shannon, distracted drivers peering into phones or other devices were found to have a reaction time “equivalent to someone whose blood-alcohol level is two-and-a-half times the legal limit.”
If the new legislation is passed, the fines for distracted driving would increase. In addition, any citation would be reported to courts and insurance companies, potentially increasing insurance rates.
Campaigns are being created to end distracted driving. Websites like EndDD.org are raising awareness and trying to educate and warn people about the dangers presented by distracted driving. “The insurance industry and the trial lawyers’ association coming together to both strongly support this,” Shannon reported. The construction industry is also in support of the bill hoping to increase safety for the hundreds of workers along roadways and highways.
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