OLYMPIA — A proposed bill would double the fine for motorists caught using a cellphone in a school, playground or crosswalk speed zone to up to $234 per infraction, or up to $468 for repeat offenders.
Washington state’s first law to address texting while driving and other driver distractions went into effect in 2017. It also prohibited talking on cellphones, eating and applying makeup.
“One of the primary crosswalks I sit at is Mill Creek Elementary,” said Christine White, a patrol officer with the Mill Creek Police Department.
“I have seen people on their cellphones talking, texting, reading, doing other things besides actually paying attention to what is in front of them,” she said. “I’ve had to smack the side of cars, and fortunately I have a very hard ring and it gets their attention.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 persons were killed and 391,000 were injured in distracted driving-affected accidents in 2015, although it’s not clear how many of those happened in school zones. The bill would require one-half of the fines collected to be deposited in a school zone safety account.
“If we can’t keep our children safe in our communities and their schools, I don’t think there’s anything else we’re going to do in this world that’s going to matter” said bill sponsor Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek.
“This is just an opportunity to keep our children safe.”
If passed, the new fines would go into effect on Jan. 1 next year.
This story is part of a series of news reports from the Washington State Legislature provided through a reporting internship sponsored by the Washington Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation.