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Washington cracks down on distracted driving

Washington police have begun ticketing for distracted driving in early 2018. This law is aimed at reducing the number of drivers who are distracted by their phones. Referred to as “driving under the influence of electronics,” or an “E-DUI.”

The new distracted driving law prohibits the driver’s use of any electronic device while on the road, even when stopped at a red light. The new law’s supporters cited a 32 percent increase in deaths from distracted driving between 2014 to 2015, as the central reason behind the new law.

What this means for drivers:

With the passage of this new law, Washington state becomes one of the strictest in the nation in its fight against distracted driving.

Washington’s previous cellphone law forbids texting and calling while driving, but the times have changed, and so have cell phone’s capabilities. The new law prohibits the driver’s interaction with a cellphone almost entirely. That means no reading the news, no checking Facebook, no watching the newest viral video—nothing that takes your eyes off the road. If you are inside the flow of traffic, you may not use your phone. That means no touching a cellphone even while stopped at lights or in gridlock traffic. If you want to use your phone, you must pull over and park.

The new law classifies these actions as a traffic primary infraction offense, called an “E-DUI,” or “driving under the influence of electronics.” This means that police officers, sheriff deputies, or state patrol troopers can stop drivers whenever they see violations of this new law occur. Unlike previous versions of the state’s cellphone or seatbelt laws, the violations do not need to be preceded by another traffic violation.

What an E-DUI Will Cost You:

The penalties for receiving a new E-DUI infraction will follow a graduated scale, starting with a $136 traffic fine. A second offense and subsequent offenses within five years will result in a $234 fine. Furthermore, unlike the state’s previous cell phone violations, the new E-DUI tickets will be placed directly on a motorist’s driving abstract, and all offenses will be reported to their insurance provider, thus potentially leading to higher premiums.

The new law also includes provisions allowing officers to ticket drivers for other distracting behaviors behind the wheel. “Any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle,” like applying make-up, smoking, or eating, will result in a fine of $99. The new law assumes that these activities are distracting per se, and even if a driver is not actually distracted, the offense is still citable.

What is Allowed Under the new E-DUI Law?

Hands-Free Use
Any phone use while driving must not require more than “minimal” finger touching. This means unlocking it via swiping or pressing your fingerprint on the scanner is okay, anything else will likely be considered more than “minimal.” Keeping your phone in a cradle and using voice commands to make calls, look up directions, select music, etc. is permissible.

Contacting Emergency Services
In case of an emergency, you are allowed to use your phone while driving to contact the appropriate services or dial 911. This was the case with Washington’s old cell phone law as well.

Parked or Out-of-Traffic Use
Under the new E-DUI law, you are allowed to use your phone to make calls or access the Internet if you are parked outside of traffic. The State Patrol recommends making calls or setting your GPS before you begin moving your car.

CB Radio
Two-way radio and citizens band radio are excluded from the law. Drivers may still use CB radio to communicate while on the road, and this will not be considered a violation of the new law.

Police, Fire and Emergency Workers
The law exempts police officers, fire fighting personnel, and emergency workers who are using their cellphones in the line of their governmental duties.

What to do if You Get Cited for E-DUI:

Even though the new E-DUI law is tough, there are some legal defenses that can be raised to our state’s new traffic offense. Drivers should not hesitate to contact Lustick, Kaiman & Madrone for legal representation, which is affordable and effective.

One good reason to fight your E-DUI ticket right away is that no one knows how having one on your driving record could impact you in the future. Specifically, we do not know how an E-DUI conviction will be judged by other state licensing authorities or by big insurance companies. Having an E-DUI could possibly cast you in the same negative light as having an alcohol or drug DUI conviction. Some out of state drivers could face large points on their records, and some drivers may not be able to obtain rental cars or vehicle insurance.

According to the Washington State Patrol, the first several months after the new law takes effect will be spent handing out warnings rather than issuing actual tickets, in order to allow people to get familiar with the new law. But if you are cited for an E-DUI, our defense attorneys stand ready to help you.