Recently in Walla Walla I started to cross the street at an intersection with the walk light. I’d checked the vehicles to my right and none had on a turn signal. When I was almost across the street, a car turned and almost hit me. If another driver hadn’t honked, I would have been hit. The driver wasn’t paying attention to the road – he was paying attention to his cell phone.
We’ve all seen it – drivers texting, talking, surfing the web. Drivers distracted by talking on a cell phone or texting cause 25% of the fatal crashes in Washington State. One in ten drivers today is either texting or talking on a cell phone without a hands free device. Texting while driving makes you more likely to have an accident than if you had a blood alcohol level of .19 – more than twice the level for a DUI.
Talking on a cell phone with it in your hand while driving increases the likelihood that you will cause a crash to the same risk level as if you were legally drunk, with a blood alcohol level of 0.8.
Washington was one of the first states to ban driving while texting while driving or talking without a hands-free cell phone. However, that law came into affect the same year that the iPhone did. The law did not envision drivers using their phones to surf Facebook, check e-mail or the myriad of other things that we can do on smartphones today.New legislation, Senate bill 5656 (SB 5656) has been proposed in the Washington legislature to clarify the wording of the law banning texting while driving and talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device.
Current Washington state law “doesn’t preclude you from looking at Facebook or the Internet as you’re driving,” according to Darrin Grondel, director of the Traffic Safety Commission, in an interview with the website “Hands Free Info.”
Washington’s Distracted driving laws are found at the following links:
- RCW 46.61.667: Using a wireless communications device while driving
- RCW 46.61.668: Sending, reading, or writing a text message while driving
- RCW 46.20.055: Instruction permit
- RCW 46.20.075: Intermediate license
If you would like to support the proposed Senate bill restricting cell phone use by drivers, go to this link: https://app.leg.wa.gov/pbc/bill/5656
If you have any doubts as to the risks of cell phone use while driving, then watch this sobering video from the Washington State Department of Transportation.