CHOKEPOINTS

Washington lowers the boom on distracted driving

Jul 6, 2017, 7:52 AM | Updated: 8:40 am
Distracted driving, Washington, lawmaker...
(File, Associated Press)
(File, Associated Press)

The days of holding your cellphone in front of your face while driving are coming to an end.

Drivers have about two weeks to get used to the tough new distracted driving laws passed by the Legislature.

This law wasn’t supposed to go into effect until 2019, but Governor Jay Inslee pushed that up by two years. The rules change July 23.

Here’s the bottom line: If you have your phone in your hand, you’re breaking the law. No more phone-to-mouth with speaker option. No more checking Facebook, Twitter or your email while sitting at a red light.

Most of the things you used to enjoy on your phone while driving are now illegal.

Drivers can still begin navigation or answer a phone call, but only if they can do so with a single swipe or button push.

Washington State Patrol Trooper Rick Johnson says all of your social media should be handled before you start your vehicle.

“What we really want people to do is everything they need to do on their phone, do it before they start driving … You can’t hold the phone in your hand.”

No more snapping pictures or taking video behind the wheel. You can still use a cellphone cradle, mounted to your dash, as long as you only need one touch to do what you need.

“As long as they’re not blocking your vision … they’re OK,” Johnson explained.

But it’s not just cellphone distractions that could get you a ticket. All distractions are going to be watched closely.

“Back when I first started driving, the distraction was the people in the car. We didn’t have smartphones — cellphones. Eating can be a distraction. Kids can be a distraction. Pay attention to your driving.”

But you can’t be pulled over just for those non-cellphone distractions unless you’re breaking a law.

“If you’re eating your foot-long and we’re behind you and you’re drifting out of your lane trying to keep the mustard from falling on your lap, that is a primary offense if you’re violating the lane travel law.”

A ticket for a cellphone distraction will run you $136. It increases to $235 on a second ticket. It will cost you $30 if you’re hit with a secondary distracted offense.

Some agencies plan an education or grace period to help you adjust to the new rules. Others do not. The Washington State Patrol won’t start issuing tickets until January. The King County Sheriff’s office will lower the boom immediately.

Tell Chris about a Chokepoint or ask a traffic question @kirortraffic via Twitter.

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Washington lowers the boom on distracted driving