What you need to know about Washington’s distracted driving law

Jul 23, 2017, 6:19 AM | Updated: 6:30 am

Distracted driving, E-DUI...

Jason Rantz urges law enforcement not to do patrol emphasis on distracted driving. (File, Associated Press)

(File, Associated Press)

The new distracted driving law signed by Gov. Jay Inslee goes into effect Sunday. How does it work?

There are two parts to the law.

For starters, the Electronics DUI offense prohibits people from holding any electronic device in their hand while driving, stopped in traffic or stopped at a light. Officers who see drivers holding an electronic device in their hand will be able to pull the driver over as a primary offense. You are allowed to hold your phone to contact emergency services or if you are parked or pulled over and safely stopped out of the way of traffic. Troopers say the side of the freeway is not a good option.

RELATED: What about distracted pedestrians?

The second part of the law refers to other activities that could cause distracted driving, such as, but not limited to, eating, smoking, reading or grooming. This is a secondary offense, meaning you must be pulled over for another offense, such as a dangerous lane change, to be cited, and the activity interfered with safe driving.

This part of the law only applies if an officer catches a driver being distracted while committing a standard traffic offense, such as running a stop sign because their coffee spilled.

How much is the E-DUI fine?

People caught holding a personal electronic device while driving or on the road will be fined $136. If a driver receives a second E-DUI ticket within five years, the fine will be $234.

How much is the fine for other types of distractions?


When does ticketing start?

After a six-month grace period that begins on July 23.

What kinds of devices are prohibited?

All electronic devices, even tablets, laptops and video games.

If I’m cited, will it be reported to my insurance company?

Tickets for driving while using handheld electronics will go on your record and be reported to your insurance provider.

Can I talk on the phone with a Bluetooth earpiece?

Yes, as long as you don’t hold the device in your hand.

Can I use a device on a car cradle or mount?

Yes, but the law only allows for “minimal use of a finger” to start an app or device. Drivers should start GPS or music before they start driving. Typing in a phone number on a mounted device, for example, is not allowed.

Drivers can use some functions of their phones as long as they can start use by no more than a single touch or swipe without holding the phone. Examples would be making a voice-activated call or starting music.

You cannot use a mounted phone to do more complex functions such as type messages, type in a phone number, access information, watch videos, play games or use the camera.

Will officers be able to check my phone?

Officers will not check your phone when they pull you over.

What if I was looking down, but not at my phone? How will troopers check?

The driver must be seen by a law enforcement official with their phone or device in their hand before they pull them over. Other drivers must not try to take photos of distracted drivers because they will also be violating the law.

When is emergency cellphone use acceptable?

You are allowed to hold your device to make an emergency call, such as to 911.

What’s not included in the law?

Transit and emergency vehicle drivers are exempt. Drivers of commercial vehicles must follow federal laws. Two-way radios, citizens band radios, or amateur radio equipment are not included in the law.

If I do get a ticket but have a reason for using the phone, how can I dispute it?

Like with any other ticket, drivers can go to court to argue their case.

How do you think this new law will affect traffic and safety on the roads?

The purpose of this law is to improve traffic and prevent crashes from happening.

If someone must answer a call while they’re on the road, how should they handle it?

Pull over to a location out of the way of traffic or park.

You can answer a hands-free phone call using Bluetooth. If your phone is on a car cradle or mount, you can answer your phone with a single touch or swipe and speak using an earpiece or the speaker function.

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What you need to know about Washington’s distracted driving law