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Washington State's New Distracted Driving Law

It's Much More Than Texting and Driving


Thurston County Legal News

Washington State New Distracted Driving Law

DUIE – Driving Under the Influence of Electronics is the new law that took effect in Washington state on Sunday July 23, 2017.

About 1 ½ years earlier than the Legislature had planned.

In short, the law bans the use of electronic devices while on the roadway - primarily handheld devices, but not only.

DUIE is a primary offense, which means you can get pulled over just for that.
 
Here are the highlights from Washington's new distracted driving law;

What’s NOT Allowed Under the New Law:

  • Any handheld use of a cell phone: in addition to texting and holding the cell phone by the ear (both already illegal), holding the cell phone below your chin or between your legs, reading a message, looking at pictures, taking pictures, even while at a stop sign or a red-light signal.

  • Any handheld use of other electronic device, such as tablets, laptops, etc.

  • Watching videos on electronic devices even if the devices are mounted in a dashboard cradle.

  • Wearing earbuds in both ears.

  • Other distracting behaviors not related to electronics, such as eating or drinking, reading a book, writing, having a dog in your lap, applying make-up, shaving, and grooming in general. Specific behaviors are actually undefined, but these have been identified as distracting by lawmakers and police officials. These behaviors are secondary offenses, which means they won’t get you pulled over, but you may get an additional fine if you get pulled over for a primary offense such as one of the above, or speeding, running a red light, etc.

What is Still Allowed:

  • Making “minimal use of a finger” to activate devices that are built-in the car or cradled on to the dashboard.

  • Using your cell phone in an emergency to call 911 or other emergency services, including urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers.

  • Using amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio.

  • Using handheld devices if you have pulled off the roadway or traffic lanes, where your vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”

Taking Effect
The new law took effect Sunday July 23, following Gov. Jay Inslee’s decision to accelerate the crackdown, mount an education campaign, and have more officers on the road.
 
Enforcement
Some law enforcement agencies are writing citations immediately, while others (such as the Washington State Patrol and the Seattle Police Department) have declared a grace period to educate drivers and give them time to adjust: they will be having out verbal warnings and information cards until January 2018.
 
Fines
The standard traffic fine of $136 on the first DUIE citation. Almost double, $235, on the second.
 
Possible Consequences on Insurance Rates
DUIE citations will probably raise your insurance rates.

The citations will be reported on a driver’s record for use by the insurance industry, which is in favor of the law. The actual cost of a citation on personal insurance bills will depend on whether the records show a correlation between someone’s violations and crash history.
 
The Public’s Reactions
The law has generated a broad range of public reactions, including confusion about distracting behaviors not related to electronics, a certain resentment about the law being too strict and treating drivers like children, and uncertainty about how police officers will be able to equitably select which drivers to pull over.

A petition is online at Change.org to urge the State to re-write the law, and in particular drop the section on non-electronic distractions.

You can click here to view that petition.

 
 
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