July 16, 2016

Once trailblazing law now outdated amid expanded smartphone options

Safety advocates and lawmakers say Washington needs tougher distracted driving laws to account for advances in smartphone technology in recent years. While the state’s distracted driving laws were considered trailblazing when they were introduced seven years ago, they now fail to take into account the new technology not covered by the old laws, according to King 5 News. Critics say the law fails to address the problem of a growing number of car accidents being caused by distracted driving. A draft bill has been proposed to update the laws and legislators may tackle the issue in 2015.

Current law outdated

Washington was one of the first states to address the danger of distracted driving posed by cellphones when it passed a texting and driving ban seven years ago. That law prohibited drivers from sending text messages or talking on a handheld device while behind the wheel.

The problem, of course, is that phones today can do a lot more than they could seven years ago. The law specifically limits texting and talking, but not other activities like checking emails, social media, or entering GPS coordinates, all of which are at least just as distracting as texting or talking on a phone while driving. In fact, while people today are less likely to talk on their phones while driving, they are far more likely to surf the web or check Facebook and similar sites.

Law needs updating

A safety commission says it has drafted a bill that it hopes lawmakers will take up in the new year, according to the Herald of Everett. The proposed legislation would broaden the number of in-car distractions subject to a traffic citation. Distracted drivers would also be slapped with increasing fines if the rack up more than one citation within three years of the first offense.

In addition to increasing safety on the roads, the broader powers would also help get Washington federal money to promote traffic safety. The federal government rewards states that enact strict distracted driving laws with funds to combat distracted driving. Analysts say Washington’s outdated laws could be costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in federal funding.

Distracted driving accidents

Reckless behavior like texting or talking on a phone while driving create a public safety menace on Washington’s roads and highways. Throughout the U.S., thousands of people are killed and injured every year by distracted drivers. As the above story shows, current laws here make it particularly difficult to combat the problem.

When an accident happens, however, victims should know that they have options to hold negligent drivers accountable. By talking with a personal injury attorney, people who have been injured in an accident will know what steps may be possible to take and if further claims can be made against a negligent driver who may have caused an accident.

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