The nation’s capital is barreling towards passing some of the strictest distracted driving laws in the country according to a new article at the Washington Post. The bill would lead to real time tracking of prior offenses by police. The full scope of this being a graduated violation system with escalating penalties for those caught committing repeated acts of distracted driving.
Currently, distracted driving laws in DC are fairly lax: a first offense of using your phone while driving is a $100 fine though the fine can be thrown out with proof of purchase of a hands-fee device. The new law would remove that option. It also sets escalating penalties for subsequent violations within 18 months of that first violation. A second offense would cost you $150, and a third, $200. The real penalty though comes with that third violation, as it would also include a 30 to 90 day suspension of your license. This represents the same sort of penalty you’d see with a reckless driving charge. It’s a very big deal in that regard.
While I don’t know that a graduated violation system will do the job, tougher penalties are needed to save lives. The main issue with this 18 month violation timeline is what is the likelihood violators would even be found repeatedly committing distracted driving in that time period? It seems like very tough penalties that would be unlikely to be enforceable with regards to repeat offenders. Unless of course DC is truly looking to distracted driving tickets as a revenue booster and having this be a top priority of police officers is the plan all along. Even if that is the goal, the DC Police Department would be years away from being able to track violators in a meaningful way as this graduated violation system requires. Even if the law is enacted in 2017, violation tracking wouldn’t be available until 2020 according to the same Washington Post article.
Distracted Driving continues to become a nationwide epidemic. As technology allows us to do more on our phones, we have to fight that urge to do more irresponsibly behind the wheel. The CDC estimates 1 in 5 crashes in 2013 were caused by distracted driving, causing some 3,000 deaths and over 400,000 injuries. DriverSafetyCenter.com believes greater public awareness as to the dangers of distracted driving in combination with technological advances from phone manufacturers which disable the bulk of a phone’s capabilities while driving [aside from hands free talking and GPS] would do far more to save lives than simple ticketing.