You would be amazed how many times a Tukwila Police officer in a fully-marked patrol car can pull alongside someone texting who does not notice them for an extended period because of to their level of distraction.
Now just imagine what else they did not notice in those 20 plus-seconds they were using their cell phone and the distance their vehicle traveled in that amount of time. They did not notice a person crossing the street. The car that stopped abruptly in front of them. The stop sign. The curve in the road and countless other things.
While you are stuck in traffic this week, take a second to look at the drivers around you. Chances are that you will see many of them texting and or operating their cell phones in one way or another. You will see cars rapidly jerking to a stop as drivers look up from their phones just barely in time to avoid a rear-end collision. You may even see or hear the result of a collision caused by someone who was on their phone and not paying attention. These frequent collisions are very avoidable simply by not being distracted.
Prior to the new bill, holding a cellular device to your ear and or texting was illegal. This left many loopholes in the law such as using your phone for social media, watching Netflix or YouTube videos or holding the phone while using the speakerphone function.
The new bill closes those loopholes by prohibiting holding a cellular device in either hand. It also makes it illegal to use a hand or finger to compose, send, read, browse, transmit, save or retrieve email, text messages, instant messages, photographs or other electronic data and or watching videos.
However, “the minimal use of a finger” to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of a personal electronic device while driving will still be allowed.
This includes ending a call or powering your phone on or off. Using a cellular device in an emergency situation, such as calling 911, also is allowed.
So what are the consequences if you choose to ignore the law and use your cell phone while driving? The first violation results in a $136 citation. Cell phone violations are also now reportable to insurance companies, which can result in a premium increase. Second violations increase to a $235 citation.
Cell phone citations and insurance premiums increases are as easily avoidable as distracted driving collisions. Simply stay off your phone while driving, and pay attention to the road and your surroundings.
Officer Victor Masters is the public information officer for the Tukwila Police Department.