If House Bill 1256 survives the legislative session, first-time distracted driving offenders would face higher penalties if they are pulled over in certain speed zones.
Rep. John Lovick (D-Mill Creek) is the primary sponsor of the bill that would double the base penalty for first-time distracted driving offenses for those caught within a school, playground, or crosswalk speed zone. That would raise the penalty from $136 to $234.
Second and subsequent offenses under the state's current law are already subject to doubling of the penalty.
Revenue from the increased penalties would be used to improving school zones and transportation-related safety for students.
The law would go into effect Jan. 1, 2010.
The law makes it illegal to use a handheld device while driving, even while stopped at a traffic signal or stop sign. Drivers who have a holder for the device on their dash, can use the device minimally to start or stop an application such as GPS.
It costs a driver at least $136 the first time they are cited for distracted driving. If a driver gets another ticket within five years of the first, it costs at least $234.
Drivers also face a $99 fine for other types of distractions - eating, smoking, etc - if they are pulled over for another traffic offense.
Distracted driving, according to a study by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, declined last year. The distraction rate was 8.2 percent in 2018, compared to 9.2 percent in 2017 and 2016. The Commission notes that the number of people who were observed driving or using their cellphones decreased from 5.7 percent in 2017 to 3.4 percent last year.