Washington State has a tough new "driving while distracted by cellphone" law.
Texting and holding a phone to your ear while driving is already illegal in Washington state, the new law that went into effect on Sunday, July 23rd will forbid handling a phone or any other kind of electronic device while behind the wheel for any reason, even when stopped in traffic or at a red light. It includes all electronic devices, even tablets, laptops and video games. Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste says you can also be ticketed for eating, sipping coffee, starting a video or grooming if a trooper sees you driving badly as a consequence.
“So it’s a hands free situation and that’s why we tell them that before you get in your vehicle, if you’re going to use GPS, get that started before you turn the key. If you’re going to listen to music, get that all programmed and start before you head off down the roadways.”
Drivers can still use their phones to make emergency calls. Using voice commands to make a phone call or get directions while the phone is in a cradle or connected to your car with Bluetooth will still be allowed. Hands-free devices must not take more than what are described as “minimal” finger touches to activate or deactivate. State Patrol Chief Batiste says the first effort of troopers will be to include a heavy emphasis on educating people, so they will likely be giving out a lot of warnings. A first ticket for driving under the influence of electronics – it’s being called E-DUI – will cost $136. A second violation within five years will cost $236. And, cell phone violations will now be reportable to auto insurance companies. Previously, cell phone tickets were exempted from disclosure to insurance companies. Using cell a phone or other electronic device is deemed to be a secondary infraction – meaning another infraction such as an improper lane change would need to be observed before you can be pulled over.