Washington likely to crack down on drivers using smartphones

April 13, 2017 GMT

OLYMPIA – Washington drivers take note: Using your cellphone for almost anything while driving likely will soon be illegal.

The House easily approved Wednesday a distracted driving bill that updates state law that already outlaws texting while driving and requires a hands-free device while talking on a cellphone. That law didn’t specifically ban using Facebook, watching a video or doing many of the things now possible on a smart phone.

The new law creates a traffic infraction for use of a smart phone while driving beyond “minimal use of a finger” to activate or deactivate a program. The first violation carries a total penalty of $136; second and subsequent infractions have a total penalty of $235. A driver stopped for another traffic violation who was also using a cell phone could be cited for a second infraction of dangerously distracted driving.

The House made minor changes to the bill and returned it to the Senate. But Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, the sponsor of a similar House proposal, said those changes have been negotiated and the Senate is expected to pass the bill and send it to the governor.