Some of Washington's state legislators must have been distracted when they were told that cellphone use delays a driver's reaction time as much as having a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, which can earn you a DUI.
The State House legislators voted to ban texting and cellphone use by 16- and 17-year-olds and make texting a primary offense for adult motorists. But adult handheld cellphone use is still a secondary offense, meaning you've got to be breaking some other law to be pulled over.
As a vulnerable road user when I'm on my bicycle, it constantly worries me that the motorist behind me might be more concerned with the cellphone call than what's in the road in front of him, namely me. I've read too many news reports of bicyclists killed or injured by drivers fooling around on the cell.
The Senate got it right when it made cellphone use by everyone, including adults, a primary offense, strengthening a measure passed in 2008. Now members of the House and the Senate have to negotiate some kind of compromise before the bill goes to the governor.
Here's what supporters are up against. The Seattle Times quoted Senate Minority Leader Mike Hewitt: “I don't like the government being in all aspects of our business.”
To me, it's really not a personal freedom issue, not when other people's safety is at stake.
The Times reports that last year:
“…the State Patrol caught 5,141 drivers using their handheld cellphone when they were stopped for other offenses. Of those drivers, 1,607 were given a ticket for the violation, and the rest received a warning in addition to a fine for their primary infraction.”
The dangers of distracted driving — whether it's eating a taco or texting on a cellphone — has become a national issue.