State’s texting law is not keeping up with drivers, smartphones

Sep 7, 2015, 3:58 PM | Updated: Sep 8, 2015, 5:39 am
AP, cell phone, driviner, driver, cell, phone...

Any driver on the road knows the signs, such as sudden swerving, slow travel, or weaving in and out of lanes. While some might assume drunk driving to be the cause, many know the signs to be symptoms of another roadway danger: Texting while driving.

Washington has a no texting while driving law. But as The Seattle Times’ FYI Guy reports, that law may fail to cover its original intent &#8212 to get drivers to ignore their phones and keep their eyes on the road. It was passed long before the time of the smartphone, and the wide range of activity a person can now use the devices for, beyond texting. A person can be checking Facebook, surfing the Web, or crafting the ultimate road trip music playlist all from behind the wheel.

“The law that goes back to 2007 talks about being in a moving vehicle while texting,” Feliks Banel told co-host John Curley on KIRO Radio’s Tom and Curley Show. Of course, there’s all this other stuff you can do with your phone now that you couldn’t do eight years ago.”

Curley agreed.

“It’s a poorly written and difficult to enforce law,” he said.

“It’s very hard for an officer because there’s a lot of gray area in there. You can be looking at your cell phone if you are following a map, but you can’t be texting somebody if you are driving along,” Curley said. “You can stop, like if you come to a stop light or sign, and text somebody if you need, but not while you’re rolling along.”

RCW 46.61.668 states that: “(1)(a) Except as provided in subsection (2)(a) of this section, a person operating a moving noncommercial motor vehicle who, by means of an electronic wireless communications device, sends, reads, or writes a text message, is guilty of a traffic infraction.”

In 2014, traffic cops issued 101 tickets for the offense, the Seattle Times reports. The FYI guy points out that the low ticket numbers are largely due to how difficult it can be for police to prove texting was happening while the car was actually moving.

One retired Seattle police officer, Louie Olivarez, told the Times how he wrote the majority of texting tickets in the city. He issued 66 tickets to drivers texting while at the wheel between 2010-15. The officer said he was able to spot so many drivers because he knew good spots, such as the 2200 block of 1st Avenue South.

But spotting texting while driving is still hard. So Officer Olivarez has to get the driver to admit to the offense. He told the Times that most drivers own up to doing it.

In an effort to combat the distracting behavior, some companies have developed apps to communicate when a driver simply cannot. One company, Curley noted, is AT&T.

“The way the app works for AT&T customers, is it can tell when you are traveling more than 25 miles an hour,” Curley said. “So if you get a text on your phone, it will automatically text back, ‘I’m driving now, and I can’t answer this text.”

John Curley and Shari Elliker on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
  • listen to tom and curleyTune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 3pm for John Curley and Shari Elliker.

John Curley and Shari Elliker

John Curley and Shari Elliker

John Curley and Shari Elliker

Taylor Swift fans have ‘Bad Blood’ over Ticketmaster fiasco

This is Swift's first tour since 2018, with her tour following the record-breaking success of her newest album, "Midnights."
22 days ago
John Curley and Shari Elliker

Larkin: Attack ads from Schrier a ‘sad attempt’ to distract voters

One of Schrier's more recent commercials called Larkin "the definition of dangerous," stating he would "support a national ban on abortion."
2 months ago
John Curley and Shari Elliker

Tiffany Smiley claims Sen. Patty Murray is “desperate” as race barrels toward November

Tiffany Smiley continues to keep pace with incumbent Patty Murray as the Senate election draws near.
2 months ago
not guilty, Seattle shooting...
John Curley and Shari Elliker

State legislator wants to change self-defense laws after Seattle shooting suspect found not guilty

State Rep. Jim Walsh wants to create a bill that will "clear up language around self-defense" to protect people that have actual claims.
3 months ago
(Photo by Katie Falkenberg/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)...
L.B. Gilbert

Actor Joel McHale asks why the post office has stopped some Vashon Island deliveries

Some residents of Vashon Island have been recently notified by the Postal Service that home deliveries to their residences will be stopped due to safety complaints from postal workers.
3 months ago
(Getty Images)...
MyNorthwest Staff

WA’s ban on high-capacity ammo magazines to take effect July 1

The measure also outlines that importing, manufacturing, and distributing magazines with more than 10 rounds will be prohibited. 
6 months ago

Sponsored Articles

Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
State’s texting law is not keeping up with drivers, smartphones