Senate Bill 5656: Bans all electronics while driving

Proposal to update cell phone laws while driving

Nasiphi Debe, Contributing Writer

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Washington state officials have proposed amendments to the distracted driving laws. If the new bill is passed, the handling of all electronic devices whether to text, surf the internet or email while driving will all be considered illegal.

Section one of Senate Bill 5656 states that, “The legislature recognizes that cell phones can be a benefit to an individual’s convenience and efficiency but are a dangerous distraction when driving a vehicle. The legislature further recognizes that under the federal funding authorization, moving ahead for progress in the 21st century act, funds have been set aside to combat the emerging national problem of distracted driving.”

In order for Washington State to qualify for the federal grants which are meant to fund the development and implementation of road safety programs, the current cell phone laws have to be changed to meet the new criteria for the grant.  Loopholes have been found on the existing law which has been effective since 2007. The law only prohibited texting while driving and with the penalty of paying a fine when found in violation of this law.

Violating the proposed updated law will lead to a much harsher punishment which includes the offense being noted on your record that can be seen by employers as well as insurance companies. Accumulating offenses on your driving record will ultimately led to increased insurance premium rates.

The proposed Bill protects drivers who pull over on the side of the road and then use their devices. It also exempts the use of wireless electronic devices to make emergency calls. The new bill, if passed, will permit drivers to only use systems that are physically or electronically integrated into the car while driving. It will also close the loophole that currently permits drivers to use their cellphones during temporary stops at stop light and intersections.

Distracted driving is one of the top three causes of fatal teen collisions in the state, this is evidence that more needs to be done to reduce distracted driving. Drivers opposing the new bill argue that it takes away from personal liberties but the reality is that it’s those same liberties that have led to the loss of many lives in collisions that could have been prevented.

The existing law might have been effective eight years ago, however, with the introduction of smartphones, the way people use their cellphones has completely evolved and so has the amount of time users spend on their phones. The law has to keep up with these changes to ensure public safety is not being compromised by the new trends in technology.