Officials in Washington state are getting ready to enforce a law aimed at people who use their hand-held devices while driving. Called the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act (E-DUI), this law will increase the penalties and scope of earlier bans on hand-held devices in vehicles.
Anyone caught taking pictures, talking with a mobile phone in their hands, or texting while parked in traffic can be fined under this new law. Washington lawmakers already banned actions like holding a cell phone up to your ear or texting while driving years ago.
There are, however, a few ways Washington residents can use mobile devices legally while driving. Anyone can use a hands free device (e.g. a Bluetooth headset) or use a one-swipe command on their phone. If you do use your mobile phone, however, you cannot hold it in your hands. The only time you can hold your phone in your hand is if you’re out of the flow of traffic or if you’re calling 911 for a legitimate emergency.
Using a GPS or music device is fine as long as you aren’t holding it in your hands. Police officers recommend that anyone using these devices should turn them on before hitting the road.
There are a few vehicles that are exempt from this law. Emergency and transit vehicles can use mobile devices while on duty. Also, drivers can legally use two-way radio systems and citizens band radios.
There have been hundreds of deaths directly caused by distracted driving in Washington over the past few years. The Washington Police Force found that 130 people died due to distracted driving in 2014 and 156 died in 2015. That’s a 32 percent increase in fatalities within just one year. In 2016, state police officers say they issued over 6,300 citations for using a cell phone while driving.
So, how much will it cost if you’re caught using your cell phone while driving around Washington? As one Spokane lawyer points out, an E-DUI ticket is not the same as a DUI. The first ticket will cost drivers $136 and this will increase to $234 if you’re caught again within five years.
There are also a few “distracted behaviors” under this new law that troopers can fine you for. These actions include eating, smoking, grooming, and reading while driving. If a cop pulls you over for another traffic violation and catches you doing one of these things, s/he can fine you $99.
Although this law goes into effect today, July 23rd, 2017, there will be a grace period of six months. During this time, the state government will ramp up educational programs to ensure everyone is clear on the new penalties. During these six months, drivers violating E-DUI restrictions won’t have to pay the $136 fine.
Initially, this bill wasn’t supposed to be enforced till January 1st of 2019. Governor Jay Inslee, however, decided to sign the bill on May 17th and set the date of July 23rd to enact the law.
The governor is a strong supporter of E-DUI and is spreading the message all across the world. He recently spoke at an E-DUI educational event in front of the State Capitol in Olympia. Describing the goal of this new law, Governor Inslee told a crowd of spectators, “We have a simple message today: Put the cell phones down.”
Researchers have found that one in four car crashes today can be directly related to cell phone use. It has also been scientifically proven that people who text while driving are six times more likely to get in an accident than drunk drivers.
The National Safety Council found that 1.6 million car crashes in the USA are linked to cell phone use each year. Other safety organizations found that 11 American teenagers die every day due to texting while driving.
Despite all of this evidence, many Americans continue to drive while using their cellphones. At any given moment, around 660,000 drivers in the USA are checking a mobile device.
For more details on this new law, Washington residents are encouraged to visit the state’s official Target Zero website. People can find all the info they need on E-DUI here in a wide variety of languages.