COLFAX, Wash. -- The Washington House just passed the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act designed to get you to put down the phone and focus on the road.
The bill still needs Senate approval. The law would make it illegal to hold your phone when you’re driving. One Colfax family is deeply committed to convincing people that it is a tragic idea to look at your phone and drive.
On September 12, 2014, Sam Thompson was driving to Colfax along State Route 195. At 10:21 a.m. Sam sent a text to a friend and crossed the center line. He veered into the other lane and hit a semi head on.
When Jim and Lisa Thompson saw their son’s text records, it was clear what happened.
“I just saw that text at 10:21 that he sent. And the first 911 call came out about 10:22. I was furious,” Jim said.
“He knew not to. I didn't text and drive we told him it was not safe but I don’t know. I don’t know why he started doing it,” Lisa said. “When we went into view Sam and Jim left the room and I looked down at him and all of a sudden I had anger. And I actually yelled at him, ‘How dare you get yourself killed over a text message.’"
They now share their painful story with local drivers education students. Their family has also spent months urging lawmakers to pass the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act. It would prohibit drivers from handling a phone behind the wheel, not even while stopped at a traffic light. Texting and driving is already illegal but you can still legally drive and check your email, Facebook or other apps. This essentially renders the law against texting useless for law enforcement.
"Judges have thrown it out of court because then they tell the judge, ‘Well I was looking at my email. I was trying to tell the officer.’ Which is not illegal. Most of the time their hands are tied," Jim explained.
The Thompson's are hoping that all finally changes with one more vote in the Senate and a blessing by the Governor's pen.
"We're hoping to physically see the signing because that would be amazing," said Lisa.
In the meantime, a sign of a different sort marks the spot where Sam lost his life.
"Every day we come to work. Drive by it every day. If the weather is decent I will roll my window down and wave. Tell him good morning sometimes," said Jim.
It is a lasting reminder to the Thompson's and hundreds of drivers who pass each day: Using your phone simply isn't worth forfeiting your future.