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Enumclaw City Council considers inattentive driving law

Those who apply cosmetics or shave during their morning commute might want to take notice – the city of Enumclaw is taking steps to target such bad behavior.

Police Chief Jim Zoll went before the Enumclaw City Council May 28, introducing an ordinance he hopes will be adopted and put on the local books. The proposed addition is entitled “inattentive driving” and, if implemented, will carry a fine up to $250 for those who are cited.

Zoll said creating the new driving offense simply gives police and the courts one more tool “to effectively educate, and correct, bad driving behavior.” The measure was initiated by the local court and has received the backing of Enumclaw Municipal Court Judge Robert Hamilton, City Attorney Mike Reynolds and members of the council’s Public Safety Committee.

While the dangers of driving while chatting on a cell phone or texting have been clearly addressed, “inattentive driving” expands the menu to include anything that takes a driver’s attention away from proper operation of a vehicle. According to a report offered by Zoll, it includes things like focusing on passengers or pets, eating, brushing one’s teeth and horseplay – “all of which we have seen in the city,” the chief said.

Inattentive or distracted driving is a killer, Zoll’s report noted. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, distracted driving was involved in nearly 26 percent of the state’s traffic deaths between 2004 and 2008.

A majority of cities in the region have implemented ordinances similar to the one now under consideration in Enumclaw, Zoll said. It’s a lesser infraction than the “negligent driving” charge defined in state code and does not require that an offender’s insurance company be notified.

The council heard of the ordinance for the first time May 28 and was expected to take final action during Monday’s meeting.

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