What Will Convince Drivers To Put Down Their Cell Phones? | KUOW News and Information

What Will Convince Drivers To Put Down Their Cell Phones?

Nov 13, 2014

Texting or holding a phone to your ear while driving is already illegal in Washington. But should the law be completely hands off?
Credit Flickr Photo/Skip&Nell (CC BY-NC-ND)

Texting while driving increases the crash risk 23 times – similar to driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.19 (the max in Washington state is 0.08).

Currently, texting or holding a phone to your ear is illegal, but what about other phone activities, like Facebook or shopping?

“Because they’re not mentioned specifically in the original law – and some of these things we didn’t have when this law was passed or they certainly weren’t as popular – it ends up in a gray area so a judge has to decide, is this considered texting or not?” said news analyst Joni Balter, speaking with KUOW’s Bill Radke.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission wants a new law to bring regulations in line with modern habits.

Distracted driving is a factor in 30 of fatal crashes in Washington. Using a cell phone, Balter said, involves three types of distraction: visual, physical and mental. And waiting to pull out the phone while stopped in traffic or at an intersection isn’t any better.

“While you are at that intersection if you are not on your phone you are sizing up that intersection – the guy with the umbrella, the skateboarder, the cyclist,” Balter said. “But when you’re on your phone and just look up when it’s green, you did not have time or the ability to size up that intersection.”

The commission is looking for a new law that says a person can’t touch a phone while driving, removing at least the visual and physical distraction.

“Yeah we’re not outlawing mental distraction while driving are we? Because that’s called KUOW,” Radke asked Balter.

“No, they have to be somewhat reasonable,” she replied.

Produced for the Web by Kara McDermott.