Two bills discussed today would crack down on distracted driving - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Two bills discussed today would crack down on distracted driving

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WASHINGTON - According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 30% of deadly car accidents in the state were caused by distracted driving last year, and the number of traffic deaths has continued to rise since 2014.

Today, lawmakers heard testimonies supporting the motion to make it illegal to hold any hand-held device while driving, and to ensure offenders receive harsher penalties.

House Bill 1371 would expand the current law so drivers wouldn't be allowed to hold any personal electronic device with their hands while driving. Measures in the House and Senate would also double the fine, which is currently $136 if caught texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving.

Right now, if a driver is pulled over for texting but tells the officer that they were typing in a phone number to make a call, they're not in violation of the law.

During the hearing today, a father took to the stand. He lost his daughter to a distracted driver who veered into her lane, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Unfortunately, the current law made it difficult for Washington State Patrol to press charges

"While I found the Washington State Patrol sympathetic, they told me that their hands were tied under the current law," said Chuck Cope. "They could not pursue a distracted driving charge, the young man was charged with Negligent Driving in Second Degree, paid 250 dollars, and the case was closed."

But it doesn't stop there. Another bill discussed today, House Bill 1631 says a person would break the law if they engage in any activity that could interfere with driving, such as eating, drinking coffee, or putting on makeup. Doubling the penalty, as well as the revenues made from the ticketed drivers, would support educational programs and promotions dedicated to reducing distracted driving.

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