Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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Is it illegal to talk on my phone while driving?

texting and drivingYes, if you are holding it to your ear. Washington State Law[1] makes it a traffic infraction (which is a civil – not criminal – offense) for a person to “operate a moving motor vehicle while holding a wireless communications device to his or her ear.”

This includes phoning while stopped in gridlock, or at a traffic light – but not if you safely pull to the side of the road first.

The exception to the rule is if you are calling 9-1-1, or otherwise using your phone to prevent injury to a person or property.

It is not illegal to use your phone “hands-free” (i.e. using the speaker phone function, or a headset/earpiece) while driving.

The good news is that this kind of infraction is considered a “non-moving” violation, so it does not become part of your driving record and it will not be reported to your insurance company or to your employer.

Is it illegal to text while driving?

Absolutely.[2] And even if it weren’t you shouldn’t do it, dummy. Texting while driving is super dangerous – sometimes even more dangerous than driving while intoxicated.[3]

The rule also prohibits texting while stationary, like at a traffic light.

An exception is carved out for voice-operated systems that “allow the user to send or receive messages without diverting visual attention from the road or engaging the use of either hand.”

Texting while driving is also treated as a “non-moving” violation. But it’ll cost ya!