OLYMPIA – Washington moved a step closer Wednesday to making it illegal to tweet and drive or do almost anything else with a smartphone while behind the wheel of a car.
The House and Senate both agreed to a compromise on what’s been dubbed the Distracted Driving Bill, an update of state traffic laws that currently make it illegal to talk on a cellphone without a hands-free device or to send a text. The law hasn’t been updated since smartphones have increased the number of things that motorists can do, even though traffic safety experts argue they shouldn’t.
“We love our phones and we have a very hard time putting them down,” Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, said. “We are less safe on our roads because of that.”
Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, argued that merely using a smartphone while driving shouldn’t warrant a ticket if the driver “is not distracted to the point of being dangerous.
“If a police officer sees someone with a cellphone in their hand, distracted or not, they will be stopped and penalized,” Orcutt said.
Doing almost anything with a smartphone could bring a ticket costing $136.
The House approved the final version of the bill on a 61-36 vote and rushed it to the Senate, where a few hours later it passed on a 39-10 vote. It now goes to Gov. Jay Inslee, who is expected to sign it.
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