Washington's New Distracted Driving Law: What You Need to Know
Have you heard of the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act (DUIE)? This new law took effect across the state of Washington on July 23rd, 2017 and impacts how electronic devices, like cellphones and tablets, can be used on the road. Read on for valuable information about why this new law is important, who is affected by it, and the associated fines and punishments.
Why is this new law important?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, in 2015 alone, distracted driving accidents killed 3,500 and injured 391,000. Using electronics, like your cell phone while piloting a vehicle is one of the most alarming distractions on the road. In fact, a statewide survey conducted by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission revealed that nearly 1 out of 10 drivers are driving distracted and 71% of these drivers are distracted by their cell phone specifically.
How is this law different from previous distracted driving laws?
Texting while driving was already illegal in the state of Washington before the implementation of the DUIE Act, as was holding a cell phone to your ear. But many drivers eschewed these laws by holding their phone out of sight in their lap.
This new WA distracted driving law bans the handheld use of any kind of electronic device. This new law also prohibits the use of any handheld electronic devices at a red light or stop sign. Under the DUIE Act, drivers can only use a cell phone or other electronic device if it is mounted to the dashboard. When it comes to operating a dash mounted electronic device, the law only allows minimal use of a finger to activate or deactivate a feature on the device. Handheld electronic devices are able to be used freely in emergency situations or if you are pulled off the road to a location where your vehicle can safely remain stopped.
Who does this law affect?
This law impacts anyone living in or driving through the state of Washington. If you live in Oregon or Idaho in close proximity to the Washington State line, it is important to make sure that you are also cognizant of this Washington texting and driving law. If you have teenage children, it is particularly urgent to make sure they are aware of this new law as well. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, teenagers are the largest group reported as distracted in fatal crash incidents.
Looking for more ways to keep your teenage driver safe on the road? Check out this blog featuring 6 teen driver safety tips.
What are the fines associated with this law?
DUIE is considered a primary offense, which means that you can be pulled over for using an electronic device while driving. Your first citation under this new law would result in a standard traffic fine of $136. Your second offense would result in a $235 fine and a fourth offense would be considered a felony.
But fines aren’t the only thing you need to worry about with this new law. Distracted driving related citations go an individual’s driving record and these types of citations can have a direct impact on what you pay for auto insurance in Washington, Oregon, or Idaho. Remember: no text message, app, or phone call is more important than your safety and the safety of your passengers. Interested in learning more about the dangers of driving distracted, make sure to check out our YouTube video for a handful of helpful distracted driving facts.
If you would like to learn more about this 2017 Washington state cell phone law, you can read the Substitute Senate Bill 5289 in full here.