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Posted by Michelle Dellino | Jul 24, 2017 | 0 Comments

Person using cell phone to text while driving

Washington State has a new anti-distraction law, effective NOW. Be sure you understand the law so you can avoid a citation.

The Seattle Times and Komo News provide useful, detailed accounts of what is banned and what is legal. Here are some of the bullets:

  • Driving under the Influence of Electronics (DUI-E) is a primary offense. A police officer can pull someone over based solely on seeing them using a handheld device, typing on their device, or watching a video.
  • This law became effective yesterday, 7/23/17. It is enforceable now.

What is banned?

  • The new law prohibits a person who is sitting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle from holding a personal electronic device in either or both hands
  • Texting or holding a phone to your ear was already against the law.
  • The new law forbids all handheld use. This means not just phone calls or texting, but composing or reading any kind of message, social media post, photograph, or data.
  • Drivers may not use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal either.
  • All video watching is illegal, even in dashboard dash-mounted device.
  • Miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating are a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law-enforcement officer pulls you over for some other traffic offense.

What is legal?

  • The new law allows for “the minimal use of a finger” to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of a personal electronic device. Police will use their judgment on this. The intention for it to include a one-touch activation action only, where the driver does not need to look away from their windshield.
  • Common built-in electronics, such as hands-free phones and satellite music and maps, are legal.
  • Smartphones mounted in a dashboard cradle may be used for limited purposes, such as navigation, music, or a voice-activated call.
  • Emergency, handheld calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal, and so are urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers.

What are the penalties?

  • The standard traffic fine of $136 would apply to a first offense, but would increase to $234 for a second offense within five years.
  • For a 6-month grace period, the WA State Patrol will reportedly be handing out literature about the new law. However, the grace period is controversial among police King County Sheriff's Office intends to begin issuing citations immediately.
  • Don't take any chances. Expect you will be ticketed and fined if you are stopped for this offense.
  • These citations will be reported in state driving records, unlike the previous law. Insurance companies will track them and violations may impact your insurance rates.

Why is this happening?

  • The Seattle Times reports that last year, 156 of the 537 WA State roadway deaths were related to distraction of various kinds, as were 572 of the 2,208 serious injuries.
  • This intention of the new law is to save lives.

Please reference the Seattle Times & Komo News articles for additional, more detailed information.

DRIVE SAFELY! Please contact our traffic attorneys at Dellino Law Group if you have any questions or if you have been issued a violation and wish to understand your options in contesting.

About the Author

Michelle Dellino

Michelle Dellino is the Managing Attorney of Dellino Law Group. The firm was founded on her belief that there is, very simply, a solution to every problem. Her personal practice focuses on complex family law matters including high conflict cases; high asset and long term marriage dissolution; cases involving business owners, IT, and medical professionals; domestic violence family law; and preparing cohabitation, prenuptial, and postnuptial agreements. Both a trained mediator and former criminal trial attorney, she has the skills and experience to take a case anywhere it needs to go, whether that is a creative settlement or intensive courtroom litigation. In her free time she chases her four dogs and two cats, loves the New York Yankees because mediocrity is not tolerated in pinstripes, and travels as often as she can.


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