A crackdown on talking on the phone while driving may have to wait for future years.
The state House decided Wednesday evening against allowing drivers to be pulled over for making calls.
Sen. Tracey Eide of Federal Way has pushed to make use of a phone handset a primary offense for drivers, allowing police to pull them over. She won agreement from the Senate, but she signaled earlier Wednesday that she would accept what the House sent back as a compromise measure.
What remains of Senate Bill 6345 would make it a primary offense to send a text message while driving, and would ban all phone use by drivers under 18 years of age.
“I’m disappointed, needless to say,” said Eide, a Democrat. “People need to realize you’re putting everybody’s lives in danger when you pick up that cell phone.”
Still, she said: “It’s the art of compromise here.”
Calling on a handheld phone would remain a secondary offense, which can land drivers with a ticket if police have pulled them over for another infraction, like speeding.
Eide has compromised before on what after years of work has become her signature issue. She proposed the 2007 ban that made calling and texting while driving illegal, and agreed to make them secondary offenses to avoid some of the opposition building against the proposal.
The House scaled back the measure at the suggestion of Rep. Dan Roach, a Bonney Lake Republican.
Roach said that while texting is clearly dangerous, talking on the phone is comparable to other legal distractions, such as eating or talking to a passenger.
The House approved Roach’s amendment on a voice vote, though some members would have preferred tougher restrictions.
“I was for all of it,” Majority Leader Lynn Kessler said, “but we just didn’t have the votes for the entire bill.”