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Rep. Carlyle backs new cell phone while driving law

Posted by Thea Chard on February 26th, 2010

Earlier this week the Washington State House Transportation Committee passed through SB 6345, a new bill that would further prohibit cellphone use while driving, making having a phone in your hand a primary offense subject to traffic stops and a $124 fine, with the sole exception of emergency use only.

In July 2008 legislators made the use of handheld devices while driving a secondary offense, meaning police could only dock you for it if they see another violation before initiating a traffic stop. If passed, this law would make Washington the fifth state to elevate holding a cellphone while driving to a primary offense, alongside the District of Columbia.

36th District Rep. Reuven Carlyle (D), who is behind companion bill HB 2635 that would make texting while driving specifically a primary offense, has thrown his support behind SB 6345.

“I am excited that the House Transportation Committee has passed this bill. Parents and other volunteer citizen activists worked incredibly hard along with Sen. Eide and me for many, many months, and I look forward to doing all that I can to get this bill through the House,” Carlyle said in a written statement.

“We want drivers, and especially teenagers, to know they are not just operating a car, they are behind the wheel of a 3,000-pound weapon, and they have a moral and public obligation to operate them safely. No one likes overregulation, but this is a matter of public safety and we could all do worse than to get on board with Oprah Winfrey’s cause.”

SB 6345 would be even stricter for those with driver’s permits and intermediate licenses, disallowing the use of hands free devices such as headsets and even the speakerphone feature.

Our news partner, the Seattle Times, is reporting that opinions are divided on the regulation of the new bill, and the severity of the penalties. Though proponents cite studies indicating that using a cellphone while driving produces results on par to driving drunk, others believe the act is no more of a distraction than a number of other inappropriate–and unregulated–behind the wheel activities, such as eating, applying makeup and smoking.

Aside from using cellphones as a scapegoat for a lack personal responsibility, many opponents also believe the bill is way for the state to collect more in taxes. From the Seattle Times:

Washington could stand to bring in a lot of revenue. In New York, the first state to make holding a cellphone reason enough for a traffic stop, police from 2001 to 2008 handed out 1.28 million tickets.

“I just think that it is an inappropriate use of police powers to pull people over and invade their privacy because they chose to talk on the phone while driving a car,” said Benton. “You cannot legislate responsibility. Citizens need to be responsible for themselves.”

Read the full Times story here. And tell us, what do you think? Are you for or against making handing a phone while driving a primary offense? (Disclosure: Rep. Reuven Carlyle is a sponsor of MyBallard.)

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49 reader comments so far ↓

  • 1 idleactivist // Feb 26, 2010 at 4:58 pm

    What about putting on makeup?

    I'm glad Reuven's pushing this though, rather than an income tax….soft ball politics.

  • 2 wolfden // Feb 26, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    Good point idleactivist. I was behind this VW on Aurora Ave N for about 2 miles and the girl in the car was really busy with her makeup. In my opinion this was more dangerous than a cellphone since she was using both her hands at times.

  • 3 onederfullone // Feb 26, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    I wish they would just get serious about distracted driving. It's all distracted driving, it's all dangerous, it's all a joke. I don't care if it's eyeliner, a face full of Whopper, or road noggin on 99. It's all distracted driving, and it isn't enforced, period. Until ALL distracted driving is treated seriously, these actions by our lawmakers just show how ineffective they really are. Monumental fail.
    Oh, and it still doesn't affect your insurance rates, which is the real miscarriage of justice. I would double the rates of drivers sited for distracted driving.
    Maybe then we'd see an actual decrease in fatalities, not just an increase in revenues.

  • 4 Name // Feb 26, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Studies show talking on a cell phone as dangerous as drunk driving, and texting and driving as dangerous as being seriously drunk. The proposed law is way too weak, treat it the same as drunk driving, first offense significant fine, second offense loose your license for 6 months, third offense loose your license for good.

  • 5 wolfden // Feb 26, 2010 at 5:42 pm

    “I just think that it is an inappropriate use of police powers to pull people over and invade their privacy because they chose to talk on the phone while driving a car,” said Benton. “You cannot legislate responsibility. Citizens need to be responsible for themselves.”

    Yea right…People won't do jack till their insurance goes up. I hope this bill becomes a law in less than 7 years.

  • 6 gurple // Feb 26, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    “Until ALL distracted driving is treated seriously, these actions by our lawmakers just show how ineffective they really are. Monumental fail.”

    What, really? You seem to care strongly about this issue, and yet you consider legitimate progress on it a “monumental fail”?

    What could your legislators possibly do to please you?

  • 7 atworkcat // Feb 26, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    I love how worked up you get over stuff; it makes me laugh.

    My question to you: How far will your proposed anti-distraction law go? For instance, if I'm driving along and my mind wanders back to a simpler time…

    Where's the line?

    I think that some progress is good, and you crapping your pants about what hasn't been done yet is just silliness. Let's celebrate the wins here, shall we?

  • 8 onederfullone // Feb 26, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    The very idea that you consider this to be legitimate progress is laughable.
    This is nothing short off a money grab that WILL NOT make you safer.

    But, of course, safety is a joke to most of you any how, otherwise, steps by our legislators to increase public safety wouldn't require an additional law, with an additional price tag, another press release, and an 'atta boy' from the ignorant…oh well, clearly I'm in the minority, yet again.

    To please me? Simply quit formulating new laws when the existing laws aren't enforced. Quit using 'safety' as a catch phrase to justify new fees, fines, or taxes. Talk about wishful thinking…

  • 9 onederfullone // Feb 26, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Happy to be of service.
    Let's see. If you rear-end someone, most likely you'll get a ticket for following too close.
    If you change lanes without realizing it, chances are, you'll get a ticket for not using your blinker.
    If you run through a red light, you'll get a ticket for running the red light.
    All of these separate infractions, all of these carrying different fines according to some tiered (as in levels of) sense of outrage based on the infraction.
    No sense of outrage placed on the underlying cause of each one of the above examples?

    If your asking where I'd draw the line? Simply one LARGE fine, for every traffic infraction, under the one true cause. Distracted driving. And yes, tied to your insurance rates.

    Of course, legislators drive, and if they drive as poorly as they legislate…

  • 10 NoraBell // Feb 26, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    It's doing it how it should have been done in the first place.

  • 11 tonygumbrell // Feb 26, 2010 at 8:15 pm

    I still see people everyday who need to put down the phone and get their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road.

  • 12 atworkcat // Feb 26, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    You're implying that the intention to do these crimes was not there. Who's to say that I didn't mean to tailgate or run that red light to save some time? My point is that you cannot legislate thought, only action. The resulting crime is what is illegal, not the intention behind it.

  • 13 onederfullone // Feb 26, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    ah, I see. So the best defense for distracted driving would be intent.
    I see the error in my logic now.
    So I'd double that fine then. Fair?
    Distracted driving, $500 + 1 point.
    Criminal intent, $1000 + 2 points.
    That makes more sense, thank you!

  • 14 wolfden // Feb 26, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    It is human and easy to get distracted. A dead relative, a failed relationship, a lost job, a missed payment…the cause list is long. Putting away the make up kit and the cellphone though are doable things. A cop can see if you have a cellphone in your hand vs being able to sense your distraction over being dumped the night before.

    As long as humans drive, distracted driving is unavoidable. Do you even read what you write?

  • 15 Name // Feb 26, 2010 at 10:10 pm

    This is way overdue as is enforcement of all distracted driving laws on the book. It is not either/or. Would you “personal responsibility” folks leave it up to the citizenry to not drive drunk and kill your kids and loved ones? The answer is no. Way to go Reuven.

  • 16 atworkcat // Feb 26, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    Once again you missed the point entirely. If I'm dreaming of a sunny day, I could be distracted, but who's to know? The point is that you cannot fine me for something I did not DO, and so the crime is the ACTION (e.g. running a red light, talking on the cell phone, etc.), not the thought behind it. You cannot make my thoughts a crime.

  • 17 atworkcat // Feb 26, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    Moreover, calling all these crimes (e.g. running a red light, tailgating, talking on a cell phone) the same thing doesn't actually help anything. You'd still have to list all the actions that are considered under this header. Otherwise, who's to say whether I was distracted or just an idiot? It's just silly, really.

  • 18 onederfullone // Feb 26, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    I agree, finally.
    It IS silly. ;-)

  • 19 kim // Feb 27, 2010 at 12:18 am


  • 20 kim // Feb 27, 2010 at 12:22 am


    your intending to “save some time.” you just listed you intention.

  • 21 atworkcat // Feb 27, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Yes, I listed it as an example, but how can anyone else know it if I don't tell them?

  • 22 kim // Feb 27, 2010 at 12:44 am

    that's what attorney's do every day.

  • 23 jimmy // Feb 27, 2010 at 1:09 am

    i really hope this goes through – just about everyday on the road i encounter someone who “cannot” signal where they are going because of a phone in their hand. its dangerous and annoying as heck.

    “yeah but what about make up, eating, ect etc.” – while these may also be distractions, it has little to do with cell phones. either way, one step at a time.

    people are sooo freaking addicted to their phones/texting its actually a bit frightening on a sociological level. to me at least.

  • 24 Barfly // Feb 27, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I guess the antics my future-wife and I pulled off while driving in our youth are still legal? I hope so, I'd hate to be a young man and not enjoy that one while driving.

    Not sure I could do them today without pulling a muscle though…or waking the kids in the back.

    No doubt Seattle politicians will either ban it or tax it.

  • 25 Debi // Feb 27, 2010 at 1:55 am

    i feel sorry for you wife

  • 26 Barfly // Feb 27, 2010 at 2:21 am

    Are you kidding, it was always her idea. Some women know how to have fun you know.

    Of course, this was before the era of mobile phones so you were unlikely to be interupted by a Tweet.

  • 27 ThomasW // Feb 27, 2010 at 2:35 am

    Just another intrusion into peoples lives.

    Just another method of raising revenue for the state.

    Just another excuse to lower the limits of an existing law and include more average citizens into the class of criminals.

    Just another vehicle for insurance companies to broaden the pool of “high risk” buyers.

    Just another way to make life in our state more expensive, and less efficient.

    All inthe name of increasing “safety”

    Just another bend over, party line, left winger.

    What would you expect?

  • 28 atworkcat // Feb 27, 2010 at 2:54 am

    Attorneys know my thoughts when I don't tell them every day? Who knew?

    You rode the short bus to school, didn't you?

  • 29 Jon_C // Feb 27, 2010 at 3:02 am

    I agree entirely. Carlyle is an idiot — simple as that. You can make all of the useless, unenforceable laws you want: it won't save a single life.

    “I have an idea: murder is a problem. People murder one another, and frankly, that's just no good! So, what I propose is: we make a law that says it's illegal to murder! There! Problem solved! No more murders! What would the world do without my brilliant solutions to all of these problems?

    They should ban attractive women from jogging on sidewalks. They're too distracting for male drivers! They should ban cheeseburgers, because they're so delicious and convenient to eat while driving! I'm saving so many lives!”

    Also, how does one define 'cell phone use' or 'texting'? What if my phone has a GPS routing program, and I'm programming the coordinates? Is that subject to a fine?

    It's illegal for me to hold a phone to my ear and talk to someone. It is not, however, illegal for me to hold a taco (or banana, or whatever) to my face, and confess my deepest, darkest desires to it.

    I'm all for being progressive, but many democrats certainly aren't that. We got 99 problems, and making us 'safer' by banning cell phones in cars ain't one. Typical democrat priorities. That's why I usually 'throw away' my vote on independents. :(

    We don't have enough cops in this city to prevent our mail from being stolen, our homes from being robbed, people from being stabbed at bus stops, our transient, RV-living bums from causing issues and so forth. We do, however, have enough to enforce this ridiculous law.

    Way to go, Carlyle. You really aimed for the stars on this one. The history books will sing the praise of your accomplishments. Your legacy will surpass those who came before you. The New Deal? Pah! HB 2635? Now you can take that to the bank!

    Oh, Seattle…

  • 30 idleactivist // Feb 27, 2010 at 3:28 am

    Please, you want Reuven to do something important, like introduce an income tax? This bill is a political no-brainer; it costs him zero political capital, makes him look like he's doing something. Better he put his energies into this than trying to raise our taxes or redistribute our wealth. He knows who his core constituents are: northside Seattle, white, middle class professionals and liberals who aren't interested in the boat being rocked.

    So carry on Reuven, put all your energy into bag taxes, cell phone laws and other meaningless politics. Just don't change the system, some of us like it.

    Plus, all these taxes and fines they are using to raise funds: seriously, they are taxing things (cigarettes, Coke) that yuppies don't use for services we don't need. If buying a $25 bluetooth ear piece means no income tax, I'll take that any day.

  • 31 atworkcat // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:00 am

    It's always been illegal to do *that* while driving. It's considered “reckless endangerment.” I think that's part of what makes it fun for the young.

  • 32 atworkcat // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:06 am

    Just because we don't have the police to enforce it doesn't mean it shouldn't be a law. The taco can't talk back to you, but the person on the other end of that phone call can, and the simple act of paying attention to what someone else is saying is enough of a distraction to make you a worse driver–studies prove this. Add in that you have one less hand to help you should you require a sharp turn, and it's just bad news. With all the recent accidents caused by texting while driving, I'm all for this law.

    If you need to use your GPS, do it before you pull out. Regular in-car GPS systems (the ones designed to be in the car, not your phone) require that the vehicle be at a complete stop before entering coordinates so that the driver is not distracted by the GPS while driving.

    Common sense, anyone?

  • 33 Barfly // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:16 am

    Really, there's a law against it? What if I'm a good enough driver and can handle the task at hand, as it were? How would the cops know, by the smile on my face?

    I'm surprised Seattle hasn't tried to tax it as well as ban it………..

  • 34 Idle Activist // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:17 am

    Well, a $25 ear piece gets you around this law.

  • 35 atworkcat // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:20 am

    You probably won't get caught if nobody knows, but that doesn't change that it's illegal.

  • 36 atworkcat // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:25 am

    Exactly! So what's the fuss about? I mean, who really thinks it's a good idea that people be texting while driving?

  • 37 Barfly // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:27 am

    Well maybe they should tax it then? Seems to be the other way Seattle likes to change our terrible behavior.

  • 38 Steve H // Feb 27, 2010 at 5:09 am

    Use of wireless service is so ubiquitous that people can't even leave a parking lot without calling. Make your call first, then leave. What is so important that you can't complete your call before you leave the parking lot?

  • 39 atworkcat // Feb 27, 2010 at 5:24 am

    Right! Or wait until you get where you're going before you check your voicemail/call them back. Or, if it's absolutely positively the most important call of your life, pull over and get off the road before you answer. Am I right?

  • 40 Ernie_98107 // Feb 27, 2010 at 7:42 am

    If using a phone is as dangerous as drunk driving why have the fatality rates per 1Mil miles traveled gone down every year since 1994 when the rates of cell phone use have gone up?

  • 41 Name // Feb 27, 2010 at 8:51 am

    Ok Ernie, here you go to reply to your question ” why have fatality rates gone done since 1994″
    Seat belt usage has gone up – due to laws requiring them.
    Airbags, first introduced shortly before this time, now we have airbags for passengers as well as side airbags.
    Better designed auto with crush zones, safer roadways, motorcycle helmet laws, antilock brakes, better tires, decreased limit for drunk driving (was .010), traffic congestion (fatality rates decrease due to decreased average speed), etc, etc
    I am sure there are other factors as well that do not come to mind right now.

  • 42 onederfullone // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    ah, but it's still distracted driving, ear piece or no?
    I love when I drop off, others jump in and continue.
    Keeps you busy 'atwork' lol…
    oh well, at least they're doin' something down there in Olympia. Fantastic use of their time here, again.
    I hope the 'real' voters show up this time around…

  • 43 onederfullone // Feb 27, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    So, if I gather your lunacy correctly…He has but two choices.

    Choice #1- Waste a bunch of time on creating this ban, and levy fines, when it is clear that it will have no impact on the safety of the public. It is, by everyone's admission, just another source of revenue.

    Choice #2- Do something 'important', like create a state sale tax, which will have political consequence, raise our taxes to redistribute wealth??

    So, I guess that there is no point in suggesting that they CUT SPENDING? Wouldn't they be better serving us tax payers if they quit looking for ridiculous ways to take our money? Wouldn't halting the growth of government be the more responsible thing to do?

    BTW, they aren't interested in redistributing wealth here, unless you believe that the poor state employee unions are in need of our aid. This state is behaving as though the poor state labor unions are on life support. That's where all this increased spending has gone for the last 6+ years. Unionized state workers, not the poor, the sick, the dying.

    I guess that I reject your assumption that the use of his time is so limited. He seems to be stuck in the will of the party, rather than the will of the people.

    This is our loss, and the many that follow this line of BS is disheartening, to say the least ;-(

  • 44 kim // Feb 28, 2010 at 1:02 am



  • 45 atworkcat // Feb 28, 2010 at 2:27 am

    You're the one that has a problem with distracted driving. I have a problem with texting while driving. That's why I think *this* law is good. Not your silly idea of calling everything “distracted driving” and stamping a flat rate for each offense.

  • 46 atworkcat // Feb 28, 2010 at 2:28 am

    By the way, I vote. Not sure which votes aren't “real” votes. But it doesn't matter.

  • 47 rwraces // May 6, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    I think that most of us have enough talent to drive while talking on a cell phone. Only texting should be against the law because it requires too much visual attention. This law is only about raising revenue for the state, and the cops will be oh so willing to enforce it. Watch, they will be hiding behind poles (on foot), buildings… so they can steal our hard earned money. They need to work for the tax payers, rather than against us. They are all about self preservation though – not enough money in budget for them all to keep thier jobs, so get behind a law to take some more from us and everything is fixed – right. What a load of crap this law is. More invasion of our rights – it has nothing to do with saving lives. There are millions of people dieing from a multitude of things, but let one die from a distracted driver and its an excuse to write a whole lot of tickets.

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