In Washington and Oregon, it is currently lawful to drive while using a hands-free device for your phone. That could change, if one Washington state lawmaker has their way.
In 2010, Washington state lawmakers made holding your phone or texting while driving a primary offense, which means a police officer doesn't need any other reason to pull a car over to cite the driver for an offense.
That law and the new tougher one have been spearheaded by Democratic Senator Tracey Eide. In the new proposal, just touching your phone (even at a stop light) would be against the law.
In addition, Senator Eide’s bill would make the fines for repeat cell phone offenders twice as harsh (as high as $248). Oregon is still much higher with a possible $500 fine for texting while driving.
“You being behind the wheel of a car scares the heck out of me when you’re using these devices, and its has proven to be a fact that they are very, very dangerous and it’s equivalent to driving drunk,” says Senator Eide.
What the senator is likely referring to is the plethora of studies that have been released comparing the effects of distracted driving to drunk driving. Not only has it been found to be dangerous, but even worse than drinking and driving. According to the United States Department of Transportation, "text messaging while driving creates a crash risk 23 times higher than driving while not distracted." One study found that cell phone users had slower reaction times than drivers with a blood alcohol level of .08.
Since the issue is on the radar of the federal government, states are being incentivized to make their laws more stringent, with the possibility of earning federal grants.