State Senate votes to ban holding phones while driving

By Alexis Myers

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A bill that bans holding an electronic device while driving to reduce distracted driving incidents has passed in the state Senate.

Senate Bill 5289 passed on a 36-13 vote Monday and headed to the House.

Republican Sen. Ann Rivers, the sponsor of the bill, called it a good public safety measure that repeals the current statute “and replaces it with a much more simple and easier to enforce piece of law.”

Currently, people are guilty of an infraction if they hold a phone to their ear while driving or are caught text messaging.

Under the new measure, drivers would not be allowed to hold a cellphone, tablet or other electronic device in their hands while driving on a public roadway, including while being stopped in traffic. Things such as holding a phone to text or use social media or watch a video would be illegal under this measure.

However, the bill would allow the use of a finger to activate or deactivate a function of a device, such as using Siri on the iPhone, and the use of a built-in touch screen control panel within a vehicle to control basic functions like the radio or air conditioning.

Democratic Sen. Marko Liias spoke in favor of the bill.

Liias brought up emotional testimony that was heard at a public hearing last month.

“Someone was not paying attention, came around a corner and struck him and he was killed instantly,” Liias said, about a man who was killed while working as a flagger.

“For the mother who lost her son just doing his job on the side of the road, for so many people across the state who have lost so many, I think it’s time for us to get serious, to take action this year and to move this bill forward.”

Republican Sen. Jim Honeyford opposed the legislation. He said he was concerned for people like himself who use hearing aids and must hold a phone in order to be able to speak and hear clearly while driving.

“If I try to use it through the car system, I get a lot of road noise and I don’t understand the calls,” Honeyford said.

Other exceptions include contacting emergency services, operating amateur radio stations and operating tow trucks and other emergency vehicles.

The new measure would also double the fine, which is currently $136 if caught texting or holding a phone to the ear, while driving for second and subsequent offenses within five years.

“These sorts of accidents are happening more and more on our highways,” Liias said.

“This bill gets serious about it, makes these infractions sting a bit more so that people will begin to change their behavior and save lives.”

More in News

Hospitals, schools comply with order

Hundreds from Peninsula agencies receive vaccine exemption

Dr. Tom Locke is the Jefferson County deputy health officer.
Mandates may be ‘new normal,’ deputy health officer says

Vaccination rates are rising across the state and nationally, the deputy public… Continue reading

Albert Haller Foundation awards $350,000

The Albert Haller Foundation has approved awards totaling $350,000 to nonprofit organizations… Continue reading

The Port of Port Townsend’s Herb Beck Marina in Quilcene was the subject of an outreach survey conducted this past summer. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
Quilcene wants more of Herb Beck Marina

Changes needed, residents tell Port of Port Townsend

Sequim’s Russ Britton (507) jumps through the finish line after he completes the Run the Peninsula 5K on the Larry Scott Trail in Port Townsend on Saturday. Taran Johnson, (547) also from Sequim, races to the finish. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)
Hundreds of runners take on Larry Scott Trail

High-schoolers, locals among 264 live-event entrants

Forums to inform search for Peninsula College president

Public feedback must be submitted by Nov. 4

Stairclimbers, from left, Tim Davis, Margie Brueckner, Matt Aston and Esther McKellar of the Port Angeles Fire Department, practice ascending the Laurel Street Stairs above downtown Port Angeles on Saturday in preparation for next spring’s 31st annual LLS Firefighter Stairclimb on March 13 at the Columbia Center in downtown Seattle. The climb, a benefit for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, requires firefighters and emergency personnel to make a timed ascent of the 788-foot skyscraper’s 69 flights of stairs to help fund cancer research. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)
Taking the stairs for a good cause

Stairclimbers, from left, Tim Davis, Margie Brueckner, Matt Aston and Esther McKellar… Continue reading

Most Read