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October 9, 2014 at 9:31 AM

Safety group: Texting-driving law should include Internet, IMs

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — A state traffic-safety board is asking Washington lawmakers to upgrade the texting-while-driving law from the flip-phone age to the smartphone era.

As passed in 2007, the law bans only texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving. Surfing the Internet, checking email or sending instant messages on a phone are not specifically outlawed, the Olympian reported Wednesday.

“That technology wasn’t available when our statute was drafted,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

The commission wants the law to say drivers can use mobile devices only when a car is pulled off the road, in a position where the vehicle can remain stationary.

The panel also wants to ban any form of holding a phone while driving. Right now, talking on a phone while driving is banned only if a driver is holding the device to an ear. Holding a phone at a distance and using the speakerphone isn’t against the law.

The Washington State Patrol agrees with the recommendations.

“Fundamentally, the problem is holding the phone,” spokesman Bob Calkins said. “When you’re driving, you should be driving — not checking your email, not checking Facebook, not texting,” Calkins said.

If the Legislature approves the proposed changes, the state would be eligible for additional federal funds to help states pay for distracted-driving education and enforcement campaigns.

Comments | More in General news, Government | Topics: driving, texting

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