Lawmakers convening in Olympia want to toughen laws on two types of illegal driving: speeding through school zones and talking on cell phone without a hands-free device.
State Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, has proposed making it a primary offense to talk on a cell phone held to your ear or to engage in text messaging while driving.
Earlier this month, Eide held a news conference in which she invited reporters to negotiate an obstacle course while using a cell phone without a hands-free earpiece, which proved to difficult for them.
She called cell phoning while driving the “equivalent to drunk driving.”
A law that went into effect in 2008 makes it a secondary offense to use a cell phone without an earpiece or to send messages while driving.
That means that an officer cannot pull you over for the infraction but can issue a citation if you are pulled over for another reason, such as speeding.
Eide’s proposal would make it a primary offense, as does a recently enacted law in Oregon. It’s something traffic safety advocates nationwide are promoting.
The Washington law provides exemptions to make emergency calls or to report illegal activity. The infraction does not go on a driver’s record.
The fine is $101.
In the other legislation, state Sen. Chris Marr, D-Spokane, wants to double penalties for speeding through school zones from $124 to $248 under Senate Bill 6363. The bill was referred to the Transportation Committee.
He said too many drivers are ignoring school zones under current penalties and that the risk to children is too great.
The bill also would allow crossing guards to notify authorities and get an investigation opened into a school zone speeding violation.
Council shakes up transportation boards
It’s unclear what effect last week’s political maneuvering over transportation board appointments by the Spokane City Council will have on transportation policy.
Six council members voted to strip Councilwoman Nancy McLaughlin of appointments to the Spokane Transit Authority board and the Spokane Regional Transportation Council.
McLaughlin, now in her second term, complained that senior council members traditionally have been allowed to continue serving on the boards of their choosing, and said that she had been moving into leadership positions for both governing bodies.
The council instead placed incoming council members Amber Waldref and Jon Snyder on the STA board along with Councilman Richard Rush.
That leaves the northwest council district without a representative on the board.
At SRTC, the city will be represented by Snyder and Mayor Mary Verner.
McLaughlin said she believes that the council members who booted her have an agenda to put greater emphasis on pedestrian circulation, bicycles and mass transit over efforts to relieve traffic congestion. She said she believes in a balanced approach.
She also said that global issues may have played a part.
“Maybe they think I’m not educated and naïve about global warming,” she said.
She said she believes that economic forces are moving in a direction of greater energy efficiency and reduced carbon output.
Rush said there was no agenda and that “nobody is being disenfranchised,” but that the change in representatives will bring a new approach to transportation policy.
Open house looks at Sullivan upgrades
Improvements to the Sullivan Road corridor are up for discussion in Spokane Valley.
Public works officials want community members to attend a drop-in open house from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday at Valley Assembly of God Church, 15618 E. Broadway Ave., to provide comments and ideas on upcoming projects.
They include upgrades to the intersections at Sprague and Broadway avenues as well improvements on Broadway between Moore and Flora roads.
Construction is expected to start this spring.
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