By Sean Harding, WNPA Olympia News Bureau
A proposed bill would double the fine for motorists caught using a cellphone in a school, playground or crosswalk speed zone to up to $234 per infraction, or up to $468 for repeat offenders.
Washington’s first law to address texting-while-driving — it also prohibited applying makeup and eating while driving — went into effect two years ago.
“One of the primary crosswalks I sit at is Mill Creek Elementary,” said Christine White, a patrol officer with the Mill Creek Police Department.
“I have seen people on their cell phones talking, texting, reading, doing other things besides actually paying attention to what is in front of them,” she said. “I’ve had to smack the side of cars, and fortunately I have a very hard ring and it gets their attention.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 individuals were killed and 391,000 were injured in distracted driving-affected accidents in 2015, although it’s not clear how many of those happened in school zones.
The bill would require one half of the fines collected to be deposited in school-zone-safety accounts.
“If we can’t keep our children safe in our communities and their schools, I don’t think there’s anything else we’re going to do in this world that’s going to matter,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek. “This is just an opportunity to keep our children safe.”
If passed, the fines go into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.