Washington senator amazed at the distracted driving she sees

Jan 5, 2017, 10:30 AM | Updated: 12:37 pm

Distracted driving, Washington, lawmaker...

(File, Associated Press)

(File, Associated Press)

Republican Sen. Ann Rivers can’t believe some of the things she sees on the road.

“I’m on the freeway all the time and I see the most amazing things,” she says.

No, she’s not talking about the scenery. She’s talking about what people are doing in their vehicles. For example, while driving to Olympia, Rivers says she spotted a woman watching “House of Cards” on her phone. The phone was attached to the steering wheel.

Related: Are Northwest drivers so bad we need regular re-testing?

That’s why Rivers, of La Center, and Democrat Rep. Jessyn Farrell, of Seattle, are drafting a bill that would ban virtually all use of handheld devices by drivers. The bill, which would create what is tentatively being called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act, would go much further than the state’s current distracted driving law.

Under the current law, drivers caught using their handheld devices receive a $124 ticket that isn’t reported to their insurance. The crimes include texting and talking on the phone without a wireless device.

But Rivers says Washington’s driving law is too outdated.

Under the new law, if approved, the penalty for distracted driving would double or perhaps triple. Drivers would also receive a warning for their first violation. Any violations thereafter would be reported to drivers’ insurance companies, causing their rates to go up, Rivers told Seattle’s Morning News.

Essentially, drivers wouldn’t be able to interact with their mobile devices once they were on the road. There would be a few exceptions, but social media users would have to be without until they stopped driving.

The bill would, Rivers hopes, cut down on distracted driving, which caused nearly 3,500 deaths in the U.S. in 2015.

The Seattle Times reports deaths related to distracted driving in Washington increased from 130 in 2014 to 171 in 2015.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, from 2012 to 2014, a total of 1,336 people died from motor vehicle crashes in the state.

The state has a goal of zero traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. But distracted driving is making that goal a difficult one to reach. And Rivers says there is no “magic formula” to get people off their phones.

“I think, if we believe there is any magic to be performed here we are fooling ourselves,” she said. “Basically, what we’re saying to people is this is a serious problem and if you choose to participate in this activity it will have serious and long-lasting repercussions for you.”

A bill by Rivers to bar handheld devices in all but emergencies passed the Senate last year but died in the House. She’s hoping this new bill will have a different fate. She says that, so far, it “seems to be enjoying more support.”

Dave's Commentary

Dave Ross on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to dave rossTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 5am for Dave Ross on Seattle's Morning News.

Dave Ross

ten commandments louisiana...

Dave Ross

Ross: As Louisiana requires the Ten Commandments in classrooms, don’t limit anti-sin campaigns to schools

The State of Louisiana has passed a law requiring the Ten Commandments to be posted in every school in the state.

1 day ago

supreme court pro-life...

Dave Ross

Ross: Supreme Court rules against pro-life challenge, so what’s next for the Christian Nationalists?

The Supreme Court last week unanimously turned down the pro-life challenge to the FDA’s decision to make Mifepristone widely available.

8 days ago

luxury lane toll...

Dave Ross

Ross: Let the rich pay the exorbitant ‘luxury lane’ toll prices

The new higher tolls for solo drivers in the luxury lane are hitting the $15 maximum every rush hour, all to save exactly three minutes of driving.

15 days ago

trump belltown hellcat...

Dave Ross

Ross: If popularity creates immunity, maybe the ‘Belltown Hellcat Bandit’ should run for president

A lot of completely normal Americans believe Trump should have gone free, and he probably will because of his popularity.

22 days ago

forever chemicals living defensively...

Dave Ross

Ross: Living defensively has its limits when facing ‘forever chemicals’

The trouble is that "living defensively" has its limits – as we heard when 3M lost control of its "forever chemicals."

1 month ago

Image: In this photo illustration, the logos of social media applications Instagram, Facebook, Link...

Dave Ross

Ross: If you hope the government will save kids from social media, think again

Social media firm TikTok must sell itself to a non-Chinese company, or it goes dark in the U.S. But that law is headed straight to court.

1 month ago

Washington senator amazed at the distracted driving she sees