The six-month grace period for Washington state’s new distracted-driving law has come to an end.
Police across the state now can issue tickets to drivers who violate the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) Act.
Under the E-DUI law, drivers may not use handheld cell phones or watch videos while they’re driving, stopped in traffic or at a stoplight. This includes tablets, laptops, games or any handheld electronic devices.
The law restricts hands-free use to a single touch.
Since the law took effect on July 23, 2017, Washington State Patrol officers have issued 6,475 distracted-driving warnings statewide.
“When you drive distracted, you are putting both yourself and other drivers in danger,” Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste said. “By eliminating distractions while driving, we will move closer to reaching the statewide Target Zero goal of no fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.”
Fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. And one out of four crashes involves cellphone use just prior to the crash.
The first E-DUI ticket will cost drivers $136. If the driver incurs a second ticket within five years, the fine increases to $234.
In addition, all information on cellphone infractions now is available to insurance companies.
“All of the distracted-driving crashes and fatalities we are seeing are completely preventable,” said Darrin Grondel, director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “Washington’s law is a bold step toward changing the culture of phone use in the car and we believe it will have a profound impact on making our roads safer for drivers and pedestrians.”
The law also covers other types of dangerous distractions.
If, and only if, a driver commits another traffic violation – such as running a red light – and that person was distracted by another activity other than an electronic device (for example, putting on makeup, shaving or reading), that driver can receive a $99 ticket for driving while “dangerously distracted.”