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Repeat talk, text ban offenders could face higher fines

Safety advocates and lawmakers say it's time to increase the fines for repeat offenders of Washington's ban on texting and talking while driving. (AP image)

Repeat offenders of Washington’s ban on texting and talking while driving could be facing higher fines if some officials have their way in a bid for more federal funds.

Washington isn’t currently eligible for a hefty grant from Congress for transportation funding because the state’s penalty for talking and texting while driving doesn’t increase for repeat offenders, The News Tribune reports.

But Jonna VanDyk with the Washington Traffic Safety Commission says it’s time for the Legislature to change that.

“It could be a sizable Powerball for the state if we had the laws in place that would allow us to be able to access those funds,” VanDyk tells the News Tribune.

Currently, someone caught texting or talking on the phone while driving pays a $124 fine, regardless of the number of offenses.

Sen. Tracey Eide, a Des Moines Democrat who led the effort to make texting or talking while driving a crime, agrees it’s an issue that should be taken up in the next session.

“Maybe we’ll increase the penalties,” said Eide. “I think that’s what the feds want us to do.”

Eide says despite the laws, the Washington State Patrol still wrote more than 8,000 tickets and gave out 10,000 warnings last year alone.

Officials hope to qualify for funding to pay for a large-scale education campaign about texting laws and more targeted enforcement of the laws.

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