Distracted driving is a major public safety problem on our highways. Our Seattle car wreck attorneys have seen far too many distracted driving accidents in Washington. According to data found in the Washington State Annual Collision Summary there were 117,053 motor vehicle collisions in the state in 2015. Highway authorities determined that at least 10,000 of those accidents were caused by a distracted driver.
While distracted driving can come in many different forms, handheld devices, including cell phones, are far and away the biggest culprit. These accidents are fundamentally preventable. When drivers keep their cell phones and handheld devices tucked safely in their pocket, lives are saved. Many U.S. states have started to respond to the epidemic of distracted driving. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that 47 states have fully banned texting-while-driving. Furthermore, as of January of 2018, 13 U.S. states now have full bans on the use of handheld devices while driving.
Washington Has Banned Use of Handheld Devices While Driving
In 2017, Washington policymakers took much-needed action to fight back against rampant distracted driving on our state’s highways. Originally, handheld device use was set to be banned for drivers starting on January 1st, 2019. In a move that surprised many, Washington Governor Jay Inslee accelerated the start of the state’s handheld device ban, moving its effective date up to July 23th, 2017. On the books, this law is known as the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) Act. The name was certainly not selected by accident. Washington state lawmakers and safety officials want to make sure that the public fully comprehends the dangers that are associated with distracted driving.
What You Need to Know About the Handheld Device Ban
Washington has instituted a full ban on the use of handheld devices while driving. This is one of the strongest laws in the country. All drivers are covered by the law. In addition, the law has a broad interpretation of what qualifies as a handheld device, and it prohibits use in virtually all circumstances in which a vehicle is moving. More specifically, Washington drivers are prohibited from:
- Talking on a handheld cell phone while driving;
- Sending any sort of typed message while driving; and
- Watching videos or looking at pictures while driving.
As far as GPS directions are considered, drivers can simply make one swipe to unlock the device. If they cannot complete the task in a single swipe, then that would be prohibited use. Notably, the ban on operating handheld devices applies even when drivers are stopped at red lights. The exceptions to the law are very narrow. Drivers can use a handheld device when they are behind safely parked out-of-the-flow of traffic or when they need to call emergency services.
The Six-Month Warning Period Is Now Over: Tickets Will Now Be Issued
As the law marked a significant change in state policy, the Washington State Patrol (WSP) gave drivers a six-month grace period to adjust to the new conditions. During that time, tickets that included actual financial penalties were not issued to violators. However, as of January 23rd, 2018, the state’s six-month warning period for drivers has officially come to an end. There were many violations over the last six months. Indeed, state officials report that law enforcement officers issued more than 6,400 distracted driving warning tickets during the grace period. While those drivers got off with a warning, any driver in Washington cited for an E-DUI violation going forward will be subject to receiving a ticket. The current penalties are for violating the anti-handheld device law are as follows:
- First violation of the handheld device ban: $136 fine
- Any subsequent offense within the same five-year period: $234 fine
Additionally, Washington state highway officials also have the legal authority to issue citations to motorists for a ‘dangerously distracted’ driving offense. These types of citations are each $99. They involve other types of distracted driving that officers deem to be impermissibly dangerous, such as reading while driving or putting on makeup in the rearview mirror.
Were You Injured in a Distracted Driving Accident?
We can help. At The Walthew Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys in Seattle are committed to promoting safer highways and fighting for the legal rights and financial interests of injured victims.
If you were hurt in a crash with a distracted driver, please contact our legal team today for a free case evaluation. With offices in Seattle and Everett, we represent injured victims throughout the state of Washington.