State government has applied for money to fund Washington’s first major movement against texting and driving. Already banned, more funding would allow for educational advertisements and other forms of reinforcement against the crime, which many in law enforcement say will help lower the number of offenders.
However, Washington and most other states would have access to a larger pool of money from Congress if they increased the fine each time a person was caught in the act. Congress has been lobbying for penalties to rise for repeat text-and-drivers, but so far, Washington State hasn’t adhered to it, despite the extra funding it would create.
Last year, State Patrol issued more than 8,000 tickets and 10,000 warnings. Other than efforts in King County to carry out educational campaigns to deter drivers from using their phones, no other large-scale plans have been implemented.
Jonna VanDyk, a program manager at the Washington Traffic Safety Commission told the Tacoma News Tribune that 5.6 million dollars are being divided among states that have texting and driving laws, and Washington State hopes to receive up to $300,000. The money would be used for advertisements about the texting ban and reinforcing the law similarly to the prominent seat belt campaigns such as “Click it or Ticket”. A federal report found that Washington State had the highest usage of seat belts last year at 97.5 percent.
Millions of dollars would be available to the state in a separate division of funding for areas with escalating ticket fees, although Washington is on the fence about whether or not to go that route. National Motorists Association spokesperson John Bowman is hesitant about escalating fees and their effectiveness at getting drivers to put their phones away. He told the News Tribune that “[p]eople respond in a lot of ways better to a softer approach on these issues,” and wants to see the education campaigns put in place rather than more fines.
“Fees that get higher and higher sound ridiculous,” said UWT Husky Ashley Wickers. “But actually, if that’s what it takes to get people to stop texting, I guess that’s what they’ll have to do.”