Distracted driving penalties could increase statewide

Man using phone while driving a car

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) — Lawmakers heard emotional testimony this week from people who lost friends and family members in car accidents caused by drivers distracted by their phones. They are among those who want to make it illegal to hold any hand-held device while driving and ensure offenders receive harsher penalties.

Measures in the House and the Senate would ban the use of any handheld devices while driving including phones, tablets and other electronic devices that could impair a person’s attention while on the road. The proposal would also double the fine; it is currently $136 if caught texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving but can be difficult to prove, according to the Washington State Patrol.

Fourteen states currently ban any handheld cell phone use while driving in a car; however, 37 states and D.C. ban all cell phone use by beginner or teen drivers.