The Washington State House of Representatives took a bold step Tuesday to defend the rights of people who choose to check Facebook while driving.
Distracted driving is one of the top three causes of fatal collisions involving young drivers. And the House is fine with that.
In fact, you can check email, Twitter, read the news, navigate Google Maps, look at porn, play a video game or watch a YouTube video, all activities that most people probably thought were already illegal while driving. But Washington’s texting and driving law didn’t adequately anticipate smart phones. The way it is written, the only activities you can’t do with your phone while you drive is send or read a text message or hold the phone to your ear and talk to someone.
Send a text message while driving = Ticket. Like someone’s cute baby photo on Facebook while driving = Totally fine.
House Transportation Committee Chair Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) told the Heraldthat members understood the dangers posed by distracted drivers, but “when you go to someone and say you’re not going to be able to pick up your phone in the car you get a different reaction.” Huh? THAT’S THE POINT!
Senate Bill 5656 would have made it so “any person operating a motor vehicle while holding, reading from, or manually entering information into a personal wireless communications device is guilty of a traffic infraction,” according to the bill analysis by House staff. It also would include increased penalties for repeat offenders. That seems like common sense, and the Republican-controlled Senate passed it 35-14.
But the bill failed to even make it out of the Democrat-controlled House Transportation Committee (member list here). In fact, there wasn’t even a committee vote.
“It is sad to see a decision of inaction on their behalf,” bill sponsor and Senator Ann Rivers (R-La Center) told the Herald. “We may well feel the pain of the House’s inaction.”
This is maddening. I had no idea this law was actually controversial. Seems like one of those no cost, no duh safety law updates that pass easily. 44 states have a texting and driving ban, and 14 have an updated hand-held device ban like the one that just died in the WA House. Is there really disagreement in our state about whether people should be allowed to play or work on their phones while they drive? While a lot of people do it, I assume they all know they’re doing something wrong.
But it gets worse: The Federal MAP-21 transportation package set aside money for states to use in anti-distracted driving campaigns. But one of the stipulations to get that funding is that your state have such a law (of course) and that your law includes increased penalties for repeat offenders. So by not passing this law, Washington probably can’t apply for that Federal money.
House Transportation Committee, what the hell? You really dropped the ball.
The Urban Cycling Movement has put itself in a very untenable position. Our members have gone on record as:
- unwilling to obey stop signs
- unwilling to obey traffic red lights
- we speed even in situations where pedestrians are put at risk and die from the injuries we inflict on them
- we use crosswalks to help run red lights
- we have threatened to ride the busy sidewalk (i.e. pedestrian lanes) despite the illegality of it
- we disregard the use of helmets despite their being required
- we eschew the use of front and rear lights because we can
- we amber gamble by driving through a crosswalk full of pedestrians in order to never have to stop (thus losing our momentum)
- we ride with ear buds in traffic because the noisy mayhem is disconcerting
- we race against the clock using applications like Strava and in so doing violate speed laws and end up murdering pedestrians
- we run up the backsides of joggers on MUPs and leave them permanently injured not bothering to stop and see to their condition
- but most interesting is our propensity to record all of these things on videos that we distribute to help sell all sorts of products and in some cases just to feed our enormous egos
And then for some reason we make a sharp turn to the right to become the conscience of the motoring world. Why is that?
We certainly do not kill as many of our own fellow cyclists as motorists kill their own. But then again we are less than 1 percent of the transportation landscape and have ‘plenty of room to grow‘ as we hone our ability to deliver mayhem.
You Must Be The Change You Wish To See In The World
When bad legislation comes around it pays to have ‘clean hands‘ yourself. No one listens to a priest who is complaining about the sins of gluttonous people when they know he diddles little kids.
The problem with the Urban Cycling Movement is that it has either managed to forget this truism or never learned it in the first instance.