Lawmakers seek to ban use of handheld devices by drivers - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Lawmakers seek to ban use of handheld devices by drivers

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SEATTLE, Wash. -

(AP) - Some state lawmakers are pushing to toughen Washington's decade-old distracted-driving laws.              

The Seattle Times reports that two lawmakers are drafting a bill that seeks to ban virtually all use of handheld devices by motorists. It's tentatively called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act.               

Washington law bars texting and using a cellphone while holding it to the ear.             

But Democrat Rep. Jessyn Farrell of Seattle and Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center want to prevent people from picking up their phone and tweeting or looking at Instagram, Snapchat or other social media. Rivers also wants increased fines for using handheld devices behind the wheel and citations to be reported to courts and insurance companies.               

A bill by Rivers to bar handheld devices in all but emergencies passed the Senate last year but died in the House.               

In Washington, distracted-driving deaths jumped from 130 in 2014 to 171 in 2015.

This is what the current Distracted Driving Law States:

A simple traffic ticket for distracted driving costs $124, but isn’t reported to official court records or insurance companies. Washington state code:

• “A person operating a moving motor vehicle while holding a wireless communications device to his or her ear is guilty of a traffic infraction.” (2008) Hands-free and emergency calls are legal.

• Reading or writing a text message using a handheld device is an infraction. But entering a phone number or name is legal. (2008)

• Texting and handheld calling become primary offenses, meaning an officer can pull over someone for solely that violation. (2010)

• Hands-free GPS devices are specifically allowed. (2010)

• Commercial-vehicle drivers may not use a handheld device for texting, even “while temporarily stationary,” including traffic jams or a stoplight. (2013)

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