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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Proposed Washington Law Would Ban Holding Phone While Driving

Intel Free Press
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A proposed law would outlaw holding a wireless communications device while driving in Washington state.

It’s long been against the law to text and drive in Washington, but the rules would get much stricter under a proposal introduced Wednesday in the legislature.

The sponsors believe it’s time to update state law to keep up with technology.

The proposed law aims to put a stop to one hand on the wheel, one hand on the smart phone. It would outlaw even holding a wireless communications device while you’re driving. The legislation also specifically bans emailing, instant messaging or any other form of electronic communication or data retrieval while driving.

In fact it would even be illegal to pick up and check your phone while stopped in traffic or at a light. Repeat violators would face double fines. But you could still make a hands-free call and the law would not apply to an on-board navigation system.

The sponsors of the update to the texting-and-driving ban say it’s not just a matter of public safety, but also protecting Washington’s eligibility for federal safety grants.