Distracted Driver Using a Personal Electronic Device While Driving
A Distracted Driver Using A Personal Electronic Device While Driving

Put that cell phone away while driving!

Last summer, the Governor signed into law the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act. This distracted driving law replaces what was colloquially called the Cellphone law. The Washington State Patrol allowed a 6 month grace period. But that grace period ended in January and tickets are being issued under the new law by all police agencies.

There are two parts to this new law. One, Using a Personal Electronic Device While Driving can be found at https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.672.

Using a Personal Electronic Device While Driving

One part of the law is titled “Use of a Personal Electronic Device While Driving”. Fines start at $136 and are doubled on a second offense. Unlike the old law, this ticket, if found committed, will be reported to insurance companies.

This part of the new law, codified in RCW 46.61.672, is designed to plug loopholes in the old law and strengthen it by doing several things.

First, the law covers use of any “personal electronic device” while driving, unless the device is designed for hands free use. The old law expressly covered “communication devices”. The new law lists gaming devices, tablets and laptops as examples of devices expressly covered.

Second, a loophole in the old cellphone law has been closed by prohibiting even holding an electronic device while driving, with certain exceptions. The old cellphone law prohibited holding a phone to one’s ear. This allowed you to avoid the law by simply holding a phone away from your ear while making a call or texting. The new law closes this loophole by defining “use” as either (1) holding the device, or (2) using hands or fingers to retrieve texts, instant messages, photos, emails or other electronic data, or (3) watching video.

It is still allowed to use an electronic device while pulled safely off the roadway; but, using a device while temporarily stopped at a light or otherwise is not OK. The statute also allows “minimal use of a finger to activate or deactivate a function of a device”. The Washington State Patrol has explained that hands-free use of bluetooth or a GPS system is also allowed. Certain other special situations are permitted, such as calls to contact emergency services.

Another important change is that unlike the previous statute, Driving while Using a Personal Electronic Device is a primary offense – meaning that the police can cite drivers even if they are not being stopped for some other offense.

The second part to the new law, Dangerous Distracted Driving, can be found at https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.673.

Dangerous Distracted Driving

A second portion of the new law – titled “Dangerous distracted driving” – is codified in RCW 46.61.673 and is intended to cover miscellaneous non-electronic distractions. The statute does not specify exactly what activities are potentially covered. But, the Washington State Patrol Website lists examples, saying that grooming, smoking, eating or reading might lead to a ticket if the activity is interfering with safe driving.

The fine for Dangerous Distracted Driving is $99. Dangerous Distracted Driving is a secondary offense. This means that you will be cited for this only if you have been pulled over for another offense.

Have You Been Ticketed And Need A Lawyer?

Have you been ticketed for Driving while Using a Personal Electronic Device or Dangerous Distracted Driving? Then, call James Feldman now at (253) 759-4555, and we will help you challenge your ticket.