Barbara A. Bowden

Tacoma, WA DUI Attorney

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New Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Law

Washington State Electronics LawWashington state public-safety officials say there will be no more excuses for drivers. Washington’s newest distracted driving law proclaims: on the road, off the phone. The anti-distraction law took effect on Sunday, July 23rd, and comes with a six-month grace period which will net you a warning and an educational card if you are stopped for using an electronic device—that is, if you are stopped by a Washington State Patrol officer. Some other counties will follow suit by focusing on education in the first few months and fines later on. This is not true for all counties, however.

Kings County Sheriff’s Office intends to give no grace period at all, and will immediately begin treating electronic distractions just like any other traffic infraction. Since the grace period could vary from county to county, the best course of action is to stop the distractions entirely when you are behind the wheel in the state of Washington. Fines for the infraction, should you receive a ticket for using an electronic device while driving, will be $136.

Driver Distraction Costs Lives

In 2016, 156 of the 537 auto accident fatalities in the state of Washington were attributed to driver distraction, as were 572 (one-fourth) of the 2,208 serious injuries which resulted from distracted driving. The new law essentially bans the use of a hand-held device entirely. You may not make or receive phone calls on a handheld device, nor may you read or send a text, type a social media post, take a photograph, or look at data of any type. While some states have a ban on handheld devices except when the driver is stopped at a light or traffic sign, this new law does not allow the use of a handheld device in these situations.

What You May Do Under the New Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Law

A driver may turn on a smart phone mounted in a dashboard holder for limited purposes (voice-activated calls, music streaming or navigation), however, the law requires “minimal use of a finger.” If you are wondering exactly what that phrase means, that may be a difficult question to answer, since police officers are allowed to use their best judgment in these situations.

You may use a built-in electronic device, including a hands-free phone, GPS or satellite music device. Drivers are also allowed to make a call to 911 or another emergency service, and CB radio use remains legal. If you absolutely must use your handheld cell phone to make a call, answer a call or send or read a text, you must pull off the road completely to a spot where you can “safely remain stationary.”

Driving Under the Influence of Electronics—a Primary Offense

In most states, the distracted driving laws categorize infractions as non-primary offenses. This means an officer can only cite a driver for a distracted driving infraction if the driver committed a primary offense, such as speeding or making an illegal U-turn. However, under Washington’s new law, Driving Under the Influence of Electronics, distracted driving behaviors involving electronics are now considered primary offenses (other distracted driving behaviors, such as eating or grooming remain secondary offenses). If an officer witnesses a driver using a handheld device or watching a video, the driver can be cited without having committed another offense.

If you find yourself being ticketed for Driving Under the Influence of Electronics, do not wait, hoping for the best. The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden will go to work immediately on your behalf, ensuring that your rights and your future are properly protected. We will help you work through your ticket in the most cost-effective manner, so call our Lakewood office at 253-473-4262.