New WA Cell Phone Distracted Driving Law Starts Mid-July

Posted on Jun 06, 2017

The war on distracted-driving has hit high gear in Washington. Governor Inslee signed a new law in May prohibiting nearly all drivers from using any handheld gadgets, like cell phones, tablets, gaming device and laptops while driving.  The new law takes effect around July 23, 2017, a firm date has not been set yet.

Nearly 10% of all drivers are holding a device at any given moment according the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.  With shortages of WSP Troopers on the highways I question whether police will be able to effectively enforce this new law and change driver behaviors. 

On the other hand, the new law makes holding a handheld electronic device a primary offense, meaning the police can pull you over for that reason alone.  The no texting and no phone to your ear laws did not allow this, police could only pull you over for another primary offense and then give a second ticket for texting while driving or phone to ear while driving.

The new law also closes a loop hole in the phone to ear law. Drivers used to get around the law by holding the phone under their chin while using the speaker option so common on smart phones today.  No more of that!!

My firm has seen an increase in higher speed crashes due to people on their phones and not seeing traffic ahead changing.  Those crashes often involve higher impact speeds than traditionally seen, thus causing more severe injuries. For the same reason I’ve seen an increase in pedestrians hit in crosswalks.  We’ve also seen an uptick in fatal motorcycle crashes.  Hopefully, this new distracted-driving law will help reverse those trends seen in my law practice.

What’s banned?

The new law forbids handheld uses including writing or reading any kind of message/email, picture, or data.  Photography is also illegal, no selfies while driving anymore.

What is still legal?

Drivers can use a smartphone mounted in a dashboard cradle (navigation apps are okay), but watching video is a no-no.  Built in electronic systems like hands free calling and maps remain legal.

Calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal.  Handheld devices can be used if a driver has pulled off the road, where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”  You need to find a legit parking spot, pulling over on the shoulder of a freeway to make a call or send a text is not legal!

What are the penalties?

First distracted-driving ticket is $136, second ticket is $235. The ticket will also be reported to your auto insurance, so your car insurance rates will likely increase.

If you’ve been hit by a distracted-driver and suffered injuries call us here at Max Meyers Law, 425-399-7000.  We can discuss your options and determine what steps you should be taking or considering before talking to any insurance companies or giving any recorded statements.

Max Meyers
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Max is a Kirkland personal injury attorney handling cases in Seattle, King County & surrounding in WA State.