From Advertiser Attorney W. Tracy Codd:
Last week, Gov. Jay Inslee signed a new, tougher statewide distracted driving law. The law was supposed to go into effect in 2019, but Governor Inslee vetoed that part of the bill, which means it will take effect in July of this year. The new law bans drivers from holding an electronic device while driving, which includes holding or using a device while stopped at a traffic light.
The law is aimed at preventing people from doing more than just talking on the phone. The law would prevent people from performing activities like checking email, texting, or playing a video game. Texting is already illegal, as is holding a cellphone at the ear. Drivers constantly flout those rules, or evade them by holding a phone between the legs, or just below the chin.
Here are some important facts about the new law to keep in mind:
- The new bill forbids composing or reading any kind of message, picture or data on a handheld device while driving or parked at a traffic control device. Photography while driving is illegal. Drivers also cannot use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal. Drivers can, however park legally and safely off the roadway and operate these devices with impunity.
- The law does not apply to drivers in very specific circumstances: when someone is making a 911 call; transit workers communicating with dispatch; semi drivers using radios; and emergency responders, like firefighters communicating via radio.
- The law moves the banned activities into a new category, which means that texting or other use of an electronic device while driving will count as a moving violation, just like speeding or reckless driving.
- A violation will now become part of the driverâ€™s Department of Licensing records and be available to insurance companies for purposes of rate determinations. The cost of a citation on personal insurance bills will depend on what the data show, about a correlation between someoneâ€™s violations and crash history, said Nicole Ganley, public-affairs director for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
- A police officer can pull someone over just for using a handheld device. It is now known as a â€œprimary offenseâ€. The standard traffic fine of $136 would nearly double to $235 on the second distracted-driving citation.
- An “electronic device” as defined under the law “includes, but is not limited to, a cell phone, tablet, laptop, two-way messaging device, or electronic game.”.
- You can still use a finger to “activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device,” which should be taken to mean hitting the sleep or power button.
- Miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating will be a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law-enforcement officer pulls you over for some other offense, such as speeding or a dangerous lane change. The penalty will be an extra $30.
- Statistics show 171 of 568 road deaths in the state in 2015 were blamed on some form of driver distraction, not necessarily electronics.
- Enforcement of this new law should commence on or about July 23, 2017.
W. Tracy Codd is a Burien attorney with offices located in the heart of Burien at 427 SW 152nd Street, Burien, Washington 98166. He can be reached at 206-248-6152 or through his website at www.tracycodd.com.
Call for a free consultation:
Email: [email protected]