Published on May 3rd, 2018 | by Guest


What is Allowed Under the New Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Law?

A new law passed in Washington this past summer could have millions of drivers thinking twice before they pick up their cell phone to talk or text while behind the wheel—and many more states may soon follow suit. Washington State is a good example of how the new electronics laws work, as the 14th state to mandate that drivers must either put their phones and other electronic devices down, or open up their wallets. Just as it is irresponsible to drive while impaired, it is equally irresponsible to use an electronic device while driving.

In an effort to get serious about the use of electronic devices while driving, law enforcement in the state of Washington may now stop and ticket a driver just for holding an electronic device—even if the driver has come to a complete stop at a stop sign or stop light. Many across the nation are applauding this bold step on the part of Washington State authorities, saying more states need tougher laws on the use of electronics while driving.

No Talking, Texting, Playing Games, Searching the Internet or Posting to Social Media

A large percentage of states which have made it illegal to text and drive, require that a police officer actually see the driver in the act of texting, and only bans sending and receiving texts, not other distractions commonly found on cell phones. What this means, is that a driver could be speeding down the freeway at 70 mph playing Angry Birds on their phone, yet not be violating their state’s laws regarding electronics. The South Carolina legislature is attempting to pass the same sort of DUI-E law as Washington, increasing the amount of the fines associated with violating such a law from $25 to $500.

Washington’s law forbids the use of virtually all types of handheld “gadgets,” including phones, laptops, gaming devices and tablets while driving. Prior to the law being passed, it was found that as many as ten percent of Washington motorists were holding an electronic device at any given moment. Because that ten percent of motorists vastly outnumber the police officers on the road, some have raised questions regarding the projected success of the new law. On the flip side, Washington State reached a 95 percent compliance with the state’s seat belt requirements and significantly reduced drunk driving incidents through tougher laws.

What Does the New Law Ban?

Texting in the state is already illegal, as is holding a cell phone to your ear while talking, yet many drivers openly flout these rules, or simply sidestep them by holding a phone between their legs or with their chin. The new law bans any handheld use of any electronic device, including texting, reading a text, taking a photograph, searching the Internet, talking on the cell phone, posting to social media, playing a game…virtually anything which requires you to have an electronic device in your hand.

What IS Allowed Under the New Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Law?

Drivers may still use a smartphone which is mounted in a dashboard cradle as a method of using a navigation app, but cannot watch a video, even when they are not holding the smartphone in their hand. The new law specifically allows the “minimal use of a finger,” used to active a device or an app.

Any type of electronic system built into the vehicle, such as GPS and hands-free calling is legal for drivers to use, and 911 calls or other calls to emergency services are legal, as are urgent calls between employers and transit workers. Drivers in Washington State may still use a CB radio or other type of amateur radio equipment while driving, and can use any electronic device so long as they have pulled their vehicle off the roadway into a place where the vehicle can remain safely stationary.

Drivers must be able to activate their phone, in its cradle, with one touch, so they are not required to look away from the road to dial the entire number, and are also advised to queue their music, and set their GPS prior to pulling out on the road.

Washington State Penalties for Violating the DUI-E Law

For a first violation of the new DUI-E law, a driver will pay $136, however that fine will almost double to $235 for a second citation. The law also makes DUI-E a primary offense, meaning a police officer does not have to have another reason to pull a driver over—such as speeding or careless driving—in order to cite the driver for DUI-E.  In addition to the penalties handed down by the state of Washington for violations of the DUI-E law, drivers will likely find their insurance rates rise dramatically. Some lawmakers argued against making a violation of the DUI-E law reportable, however, in the end, those who felt the offense should be reportable won this battle.

What About Other Distracted Driving Behaviors?

Other distracted driving behaviors such as putting on makeup, eating or drinking, remain a secondary offense, meaning a driver would only be ticketed for such an offense if they were pulled over for a primary offense. Those who receive one of these secondary tickets for being “dangerously distracted,” will be fined $99. In an effort to “ease” Washington drivers into the new DUI-E law, each law enforcement agency began with a six-month grace period where only warnings and education cards were handed out, although some police departments disagreed with this non-enforcement window, under the belief that the best way to get drivers to change their dangerous behaviors is to issue a citation.

In fact, both King and Whitman Counties chose not to provide the suggested grace period to residents, which does raise some questions regarding how the law will be uniformly enforced throughout the state. If you are a resident of the state of Washington—or another state which is currently tightening the restrictions on distracted driving—it  makes sense to become familiar with the laws in your area, then obey them to the letter. Not only will you make the roadways safer, you will avoid a fine and other potentially negative repercussions.

Author bio:

Barbara Bowden is attorney and owner of The Law Offices of Barbara A. Bowden. Barbara’s favorite part about being a defense attorney is handling a case from beginning to end – turning something from a negative into something positive. She is extremely passionate about making a positive impact on people’s lives through the tireless work of her law office. When Barbara is not in the office, she is doing her other job – being a mom to her two daughters.

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