I have talked about this before and finally the Washington State legislature has finally done something about it. Starting July 23, 2017, it will be illegal to use any handheld device except for a couple narrow situations. Distracted driving is increasingly becoming the leading cause of death from car accidents around the United States. Lax driving laws and enforcement has been one of the main problems for the proliferation of distracted driving and cell phone usage.
What’s the law right now and why was it not strict enough?
Right now it is already illegal to text while driving but that is narrowly limited to texting while driving and not using Facebook, searching the internet, or inputting GPS while the phone is in your hand. Also it doesn’t restrict usage while stopped at a traffic light or stop sign.
What will be banned?
The new bill forbids handheld uses, including composing or reading any kind of message, picture or data. Photography while driving is illegal. Drivers also cannot use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal.
What is still legal?
Drivers may still use a cellphone mounted in a dashboard cradle, for instance to use a navigation app, but not to watch video. The new law permits “minimal use of a finger” to activate an app or device. Built-in electronic systems, such as hands-free calling and maps, remain legal.
Calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal, as are urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers. Amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio, remain legal.
Handheld devices may be used if the driver has pulled off the roadway or traffic lanes, where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”
What are the penalties?
The first offense will carry a $136 and would nearly double to $235 on the second distracted-driving citation. A police officer can pull someone over just for using a handheld device, which is a primary offense and not secondary to speeding or another violation.
Will a ticket raise my insurance rates?
The offense is considered a moving offense that insurance companies will penalize you for.
What about other kinds of distraction?
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.