Washington state has responded to an increase of distracted driving incidents by passing the E-DUI law which went into effect July 23. This new law aims to address resulting fatalities and injuries caused by distracted drivers by fining those caught simply holding electronic devices.
Otherwise known as hands-free law, RCW 46.61.667 allows police to pull drivers over and ticket drivers if they are seen holding their phones while driving. A first time offense incurs a $124 fine and a second offense within five years of the first will cost the driver $234. All violations will be seen by the driver’s insurance company.
The law originally took effect July 1, 2008, but was revised in 2017.
The revised law includes a new section which outlines the penalty for driving a motor vehicle while holding an electronic device — which is now considered a traffic violation. Drivers can also be fined a base penalty of $30 if they are caught driving while engaging in an activity not related to operating the motor vehicle, such as drinking or eating.
However, drivers caught violating the law will not be fined right away, according to the Seattle Police Department (SPD).
“Bottom line, if you’re on the road, get off your phone,” SPD said in their blogpost July 24. “Our colleagues at the Seattle Police Department will be educating people on the road, issuing warnings in July and August before they start issuing tickets in September.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people were killed by distracted drivers in 2015, and an additional 391,000 people were injured in motor vehicle accidents that involved distracted drivers.
The Washington State Department of Licensing (DOL) also released some data involving distracted driving.
According to the DOL, a driver who is talking on the phone is as impaired as a driver with a 0.08 blood alcohol content — the legal limit for which a person can drive a motor vehicle.
Under the new distracted driver law, drivers are able to use electronic devices if they are hands free (Bluetooth), are parked, are out of the flow of traffic, are starting their GPS or music before driving, or are making emergency calls.
Use by transit system employees for time-sensitive communication between employee and the dispatch service, use by commercial motor vehicle drivers under permitted conditions, and use by operators of authorized emergency vehicles are the only scenarios that exempt drivers from the law.
Reach reporter Hannah Pickering at email@example.com. Twitter: Hannah_Pick95