Get caught holding your cell phone while operating a car and you will likely receive a citation for Driving Under the Influence of Electronics. Starting July 23, 2017, police can pull someone over for just using a handheld device and do not need another violation to stop you. Governor Jay Inslee recently accelerated a new law to help combat distracted driving caused by using a cell phone. The article “What drivers can and cannot do under Washington state’s new distracted-driving” published by Mike Lindblom, Seattle Times Transportation Reporter, explains “[t]he law forbids virtually all use of handheld gadgets such as phones, tablets, laptop computers and gaming devices while driving.” While texting or holding a cell phone to your ear while driving is already illegal, under the new law even holding and using a phone while temporarily stopped at a red-light signal or stop sign is no longer permitted. In other words, no more checking and sending messages or emails while temporarily stopped at a red-light signal or stop sign or in stop-and-go traffic. Smartphone mounted dashboard cradles are still permitted for limited reasons like using a navigation application because the law permits “minimal use of a finger” to activate an application a device. Also, vehicles with manufactured hands-free calling and navigation devices are still legal. While this new law may seem frustrating, it will reduce injuries to people and save lives. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) recently released findings after conducting an observational survey. The WTSC found that “1 out of 10 drivers in Washington State are distracted while driving, representing a distraction rate of 9.2 percent. Fatalities from distracted driving increased by 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington.”* Angie Ward, the program manager at WTSC said “‘Research shows that cell phone use causes poor driving more than any other potential distraction. Choosing to use your cell phone while driving is one of the riskiest things you can do. Unfortunately, our study shows that too many drivers are putting themselves, their passengers and others at risk.’” *See News Release from WTSC. While this law may seem inconvenient, few things in life are more important than a person’s health and life and this law will help.
DISCLAIMER – This article is only meant to provide general information and not legal advice. Since every case and facts are unique and different, readers should not act upon the information contained in this article without seeking advice from an attorney. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship.