New WA State Distracted Driving Law

Posted 6/23/17

Having your attention, thoughts, and focus away from the road in front of you greatly increases the odds that you will not be able to react in time to avoid a collision. It is currently illegal to text or hold your phone to your ear while driving.

The passage of Washington State’s newest traffic law tackles this issue by outlawing (with some specific exceptions) drivers from holding their phone or other small electronic devices in their hand while operating a motor vehicle on the road. Scheduled to take effect July 23rd, the change in the law aims to close a few loopholes that exist under the current law.

One of the biggest “grey areas” that was cleaned up in the new legislation is clarification that the law applies to anyone operating a vehicle on a public roadway. In the past, drivers stopped for a light or stuck in our usual freeway back-up would argue that they were not “driving” so the law didn’t apply to them. Beginning this summer, the new law will apply to anyone behind the wheel regardless if your car is moving or not. Drivers are permitted to pull over to a safe location in order to talk or text without violating the law.

The act of texting is a much more common method of communication these days and requires your hands, eyes, and brain to send a text. All three of these should be focused on the driving task in front you and not on your device. The new law goes straight at this problem by requiring drivers to put their device down while on the road.

Once the law goes into effect, Redmond officers will be not be under any mandate to offer a grace period. The decision to stop a vehicle and/or issue a ticket or warning has always been at the discretion of the individual officer, and that will continue to be the case. The penalty if cited by an officer is $136 for the first offense but jumps to $234 for the second offense. These tickets will also now be reported to insurance companies. Additionally, an extra $30 can be added to a standard traffic infraction ticket if the officer observes a driver engaging in activity “not related to the operation of the vehicle” which contributes to a violation taking place. Your dog jumping into your lap and causing you to run a stop sign is the classic example of this. Although eating, grooming, and rocking the air guitar can also count.

While there will always be a long list of things drivers can face which take their attention off the road, the updated cell phone law targets a growing trend of drivers paying more attention to their daily communication than their own driving. When you’re behind the wheel, put the messages on hold and focus on the road!