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Lawmaker wants to toughen 'Hang up and drive' rules

King 5 TV Seattle: Lawmaker wants to toughen ’Hang up and drive’ rules

by DREW MIKKELSEN / KING 5 News
Posted on January 18, 2010 at 5:46 PM
Updated Monday, Jan 18 at 5:59 PM

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OLYMPIA, Wash. - After Seattle bicyclist Jennifer Lesher was hit by a car, the man who was driving stopped to see if she was OK.

"As I sat dazed on the ground," said Lesher. "The driver jumped out of the car with his cell phone to his ear yelling into it, ’Oh my God, Oh my God. I hit a person’."

Lesher told the story of how she suffered several broken bones in the crash to the Senate Transportation Committee Monday. Lawmakers are debating legislation that would give police the power to pull over and cite those who are holding cell phones to their ears while driving.

Violating drivers would be fined $124.

Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, is sponsoring the bill. In 2007 she sponsored a bill requiring the use of ’hands-free’ devices. But under that law, drivers could only be cited if they were pulled over for another offense.

"It’s been three years. People are ignoring it," said Eide.

Eide’s bill would also ban teens under the age of 18 from talking on cell phones, even with ’hands-free’ devices.

The bill is expected to generate a lot of debate.

"I think it’s a terrible idea," said Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver. Benton said the law would overwhelm already understaffed police agencies. He said it’s an example of government overreaching its bounds.

"It’s dangerous to run around carrying a pair of scissors with the point up," said Benton, "But we don’t have a law to stop people from doing that."

Eide said the bill is all about safety.

"It’s the equivalent to drunk driving. We don’t tolerate drunks in Washington State," said Sen. Eide, "It’s time to say,’Hang up and drive.’"