Auto insurance

Phones not the only culprit in new traffic law

Tuesday, July 18, 2017by  Jon Osterberg

woman applies mascara whie drivingGov. Jay Inslee warns Washington drivers that using a cell phone behind the wheel is more dangerous than driving drunk, and starting Sunday the penalty stiffens.

You should take note that other distractions also will cost you, such as grooming, eating, or reading while driving. I say whoopee, and it's about time.

Washington's new distracted driving law carries a fine between $136 and $234 for using a handheld device. If you're pulled over for another offense, the secondary aspects such as grooming while driving can cost you $99.

Everyone has a story about preposterous distracted driving behavior they've seen. I'll share a few, including an example of my own distracted behavior.

Years ago my friend Tim was miffed because he got pulled over for playing his acoustic guitar while driving his convertible Volkswagen Bug. He was controlling (somewhat) the steering wheel with his legs. Tim thought the ticket was unfair because he was in stop-and-go SR 520 traffic and wasn't playing while at freeway speed.

Just last week, as I drove in the right lane on a 40-mph arterial in Bellevue, I passed a woman in the left lane who was applying mascara while looking in her rearview mirror. I passed her because she was only going about 33 mph.

At least she wasn't speeding while primping.

When I was fairly new at PEMCO, several of us hosted a company-sponsored field trip for our retired customers. We were packed into a crowded Grayline bus returning from Diablo Dam southbound on I-5 when we got an awkward surprise. Looking down on a car alongside us, we spied a couple engaged in the sort of thing that's usually confined to bedrooms.

You'll never convince me that driver wasn't distracted.

My own worst misstep happened when I was just 17, and it changed forever how I would drive. It made me an anti-distraction zealot.

yellow 1967 Ford MustangMom let me run an errand in her yellow 1967 Mustang, which was a pretty cool ride for a parent's car. Approaching a corner Mobil gas station on a summer day, I saw two friends there gassing up and chatting. I waved out the window and yelled something to get their attention.

My buddy Jan started to wave but quickly lifted both hands to his head in an "Oh, no!" gesture. I looked back at the road just in time to see a car stopped in front of me. The light at the intersection had turned red. I slammed the brake pedal, but too late – I skidded into the car, crushing the front of my hood.

The woman I hit wasn't hurt, and her car suffered less damage than mom's Mustang. But my pride and my wallet took a huge hit. That was the summer I worked at my dad's Yankee Boat Company, applying itchy fiberglass and stinky resin to pay for the Mustang body shop bill.

woman-driving-eating.jpgThe one distraction I still must suppress, like many of you I'm sure, is eating while driving. Countless PEMCO claims files tell of drivers who crashed while dabbing at spilled ketchup or mustard, reaching for dropped fries, or flinching at spilled hot coffee.

With the advent of streaming radio, perhaps we'll see fewer claims for drivers who veered off course while reaching for a dropped CD.

So starting July 23, forget smart devices while you drive, and think twice about eating fast food. That Dairy Queen $5 Buck Lunch now could cost you $99.

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Comments on this post

personDave07/20/2017 07:26 AM
Way overdue..


I used to put 100,000 miles every 3 years on my company cars.  I could write a book on what I have seen happening on the roads.  We need more cops!

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