Distracted DC drivers could soon face higher penalties

Penalties for distracted driving could be getting stiffer in D.C. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

WASHINGTON — Most drivers know to ignore their phones when they’re behind the wheel, but soon those driving distracted in D.C. could face higher fines.

If the council passes enhanced distracted driving penalties, second-time offenders could pay $150. The third time a driver is caught without their hands free, it’ll be $200 coupled with a temporary license suspension.

“First-time offenders would still face the current fine of $100,” said Transportation Committee Chair Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3).

But D.C. police don’t have the technology to see a driver’s previous moving violations in the field. “And for this reason, MPD has informed us that it won’t be able to implement this bill until it develops such technology,” Cheh said.

As a result, if the bill passes, taxpayers could foot the bill for the upgrade. The council votes on increased distracted driving penalties on Oct. 11.

Penalties could have been higher: The bill was amended to drop a provision that would have suspended a driver’s vehicle registration.

“At every opportunity to encourage motorists to be more attentive, I think we should absolutely do that,” said Councilman Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4).

The Enhanced Penalties for Distracted Driving Amendment Act of 2016 passed the committee with a unanimous vote.

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