TACOMA, Wash. — Cody Meyer, 23, was a flagger in bright yellow clothes for a private company installing fiber-optic cable on a road in Issaquah, Wash. on Dec. 15, 2015.
A man driving 40 mph in a 25 mph zone while talking on a smartphone never looked up, and ran into him. The young man suffered brain injuries, a torn kidney, a broken leg and blood clots. After a long stay in a hospital he went to a rehabilitation facility.
He could not talk, but could use sign language. On May 24 of the following year, his parents and rehabilitation staff found out Meyer could read. But he died that evening.
“This contributed to his death,” his mother Tina Meyer said on Tuesday, holding up a smartphone at a ceremony in Tacoma, Wash., where Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill to make it illegal to use smartphones and other handheld electronic devices while driving in Washington as of this July.
Originally, the bill was supposed to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019, but Inslee bumped that date up to mid-July.
“Our message with this bill is to put your cellphone down,” Inslee said.
Under current Washington law, holding a cell phone to one’s ear or texting while driving are prohibited. But the current law does not cover apps like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat — or the thousands of other ways people use their devices.
The bill by Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, makes it illegal to drive while:
- Holding a personal electronic device in either hand or both hands;
- Using a hand or finger to compose, send, read, browse, transmit, save, or retrieve email, text messages, instant messages, photographs, or other electronic data. But the legislation does not forbid the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device.
- Watching video on a personal electronic device.
The law makes exceptions for certain commercial and emergency uses.
It took Rivers three years to get this bill passed — 39-10 in the state Senate and 61-36 in the House. Rep. Jessyn Farrell, D-Seattle, shepherded Rivers’ bill for the past two legislative sessions in the House to finally get it passed. “It took people time to change their minds,” Farrell said.
Both described opposition as similar to the 1970s protests when people in cars were finally required to wear seat belts under the law. “It’s my hope that one day people will look with the same jaundice eye about distracted driving as people look at driving without a seat belt,” Rivers said.
Editor’s note: The timing of the law’s implementation has been corrected since the original post.