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Washington State Bill Could Crack Down on Distracted Driving

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distracted driving lawsWashington State representatives are drafting a bill tentatively called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act, which could ban all driver use of handheld devices. Last week, Representatives of AAA, Harborview Medical Center, Washington State Patrol, Washington DECA high-school students, and the insurance industry testified in support. The families of four distracted driving victims also shared their stories with the lawmakers and asked for the crackdown.

“How many more deaths will it take before the Legislature will change the existing laws and give our state law enforcement the needed laws to stem the growing epidemic of distracted driving?” Lavera Wade asked the House Transportation Committee after telling the story of her grandson who drifted into oncoming traffic and hit a semi-truck while texting his girlfriend.

Per House Bill 1371, the standard fine of $124 would double for a second offense, and violations would be reported to insurance companies. With the exception of emergency calls, drivers would only be allowed “minimal use of a finger” to activate software, like a dash-mounted GPS map. Transit and taxi drivers would be permitted to contact their dispatch center, and commercial drivers permitted under federal law could continue to use allowed devices.

While in Washington State it is already illegal to use a cell phone at the ear or to text while driving, the law does not prohibit app use, videos, photos and other cell phone-related activity.

Traffic safety experts classify distractions into three main types: manual, visual and cognitive. Manual distractions are those where you move your hands away from the task of controlling the vehicle. Visual distractions take your eyes away from the road. Cognitive distractions involve those that cause the mind to wander away from the task of driving, according to End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org). The reason texting has such a bad reputation is because it simultaneously involves all three types of distraction.

Combined with stronger legislation and enforcement, awareness campaigns like EndDD.org are battling the nationwide distracted driving epidemic. To become part of the solution, visit EndDD.org to take action.

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