State lawmakers seek to ban use of handheld devices by drivers

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SEATTLE — Some state lawmakers are pushing to toughen Washington’s decade-old distracted-driving laws.

Our news partner The Seattle Times reports that two lawmakers are drafting a bill that seeks to ban virtually all use of handheld devices by motorists. It’s tentatively called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act.

Washington law bars texting and using a cellphone while holding it to the ear.

But Democrat Rep. Jessyn Farrell of Seattle and Republican Sen. Ann Rivers of La Center want to prevent people from picking up their phone and tweeting or looking at Instagram, Snapchat or other social media. Rivers also wants increased fines for using handheld devices behind the wheel and citations to be reported to courts and insurance companies.

A bill by Rivers to bar handheld devices in all but emergencies passed the Senate last year but died in the House.

In Washington, distracted-driving deaths jumped from 130 in 2014 to 171 in 2015.