An effort in the Washington state
Legislature to require drivers to keep their hands off the phone has died.
The bill remained in committee at
the end of the session April 24, effectively killing it for the year. It had
previously passed the Senate.
Sponsored by Sen. Tracey Eide,
D-Federal Way, SB5160 sought to ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in
the state. Talking on a phone equipped with a “hands-free” device would still
have been permitted.
Eide’s measure would have made it
a secondary offense to drive while using a hand-held phone – meaning they would have to be
pulled over for another violation before they could be ticketed for talking on
the phone. Violators could be fined more than
It would have exempted emergency
Currently, New York and New Jersey
have the only statewide laws restricting cell phone use in vehicles. Several
states, however, are addressing the issue.
That may change as more studies
underline the risks and dangers of driving while chatting on the phone.
A recent study by the University
of Utah found that when drivers between the ages of 18 and 25 talk on cell
phones, they drive like elderly people – moving and reacting more slowly and
increasing their risk of accidents.
“If you put a 20-year-old driver
behind the wheel with a cell phone, his reaction times are the same as a
70-year-old driver,” David Strayer, a University of Utah psychology professor
and principal author of the study, told Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
“It’s like instant aging,” he
Strayer said it doesn’t matter
whether the phone is hand-held or hands-free, calling into question the
effectiveness of legislation similar to that proposed by Edie. Any activity
requiring a driver to “actively be part of a conversation” likely will impair
driving abilities, Strayer said.