A lot of social media posts lately have been highlighting the fact that the new Washington State Distracted Driver Law makes it illegal to eat or drink food while driving, which is a secondary offense under the law. A secondary offense means that you cannot be pulled over for eating or drinking while driving unless you are speeding, run a red light, or do some other traffic violation first – which probably is a good thing to get fined for because eating or drinking while speeding is not a good thing and eating or drinking may have been the distracting reason why someone ran a red light.
The eating and drinking part of the law has created a lot of hoopla because news media outlets have misleading posted screen shots of the law stating eating and drinking is now illegal without also indicating it is actually a secondary offense in addition to another traffic fine.
Here is what the law actually says: Senate Bill 5289 Section 3:
(1)(a) It is a traffic infraction to drive dangerously distracted. Any driver who commits this infraction must be assessed a base penalty of thirty dollars.
(b) Enforcement of the infraction of driving dangerously distracted may be accomplished only as a secondary action when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of a separate traffic infraction or an equivalent local ordinance.
(c) For the purposes of this section, “dangerously distracted” means a person who engages in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such motor vehicle on any highway.
As a Seattle personal injury lawyer representing people injured in car accidents, I have found that a rising number of car accidents are caused because of distracted driving. Additionally, these accidents are often some of the most devastating car accidents. If you are distracted by food or drinks while driving and cause a car accident, your stupidity should get you another fine. If you drive safely focusing on the road and drive correctly without being distracted and causing a car accident or traffic offense, you can drink your coffee and eat food without worry of being pulled over. However, if you are swerving because you are looking down at your spilled drink on your shirt, you deserve a fine.
The distracted driving law is a gigantic improvement in prior law in an effort to combat rising distracted driving because of people on their phone while they are driving and not worrying about others around them. How many times have you seen someone on their phone driving extremely slow and causing backups or swerving from lane to lane on the freeway? Too much! The new laws in place should prevent a lot of car accidents because of people being selfish and thinking about something other than the fast moving killing machine that they are driving.