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The danger of using a cell phone behind the wheel in Washington state

Mobile phones have transformed our lives in many ways, but not in a good way when it comes to driving. The Washington Traffic Safety Commission calls using a phone behind the wheel the most dangerous of all types of distracted driving.

According to the Commission, in one-quarter of all crashes the driver was using a mobile phone before the accident and almost three-quarters of people who drive while distracted are distracted by their cell phones. Chillingly, in one year from 2014 to 2015 in our state, fatal vehicle accidents caused by distracted driving generally increased by one-third.

The Commission recommends turning off your phone while driving, putting it in the glove compartment or having a passenger keep it. But more than just common sense, talking on a hand-held device is against the law in Washington.

Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act

Our state uses unique, powerful language to describe this problem - driving under the influence of electronics. It is a violation of state law to drive while using a hand-held mobile phone or another electronic device like a tablet, video game or laptop. It is also illegal to do so while stopped in a traffic jam or at a light. An officer can pull you over if they suspect this violation.

Not only is talking on a device against the law, but also typing, using the Internet, watching a video or taking a picture while driving.

Reporting an emergency by phone from your car is an exception.

Hands-free talking is allowed and a driver may touch or swipe a device once to begin a call or another function.

Washington calls these violations "electronics DUIs" or E-DUIs. The first E-DUI violation results in a ticket of at least $136 and another within five years, at least $234. Other kinds of distractions that impact driving safety like reading, smoking or eating can bring a $99 ticket, but only if you are already pulled over for something else.

The law also requires the state to report mobile-phone violations to your auto insurance provider.

Personal injury lawsuits

Of course, if a driver causes a collision because they are driving negligently or recklessly and injures another person, the driver would be civilly liable for the resulting injuries and related damages like property loss, lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering and more. If the driver's negligent behavior that caused the crash also violated the electronics DUI law, that violation would be important evidence in a personal injury suit.

Anyone harmed in a car accident should speak to a lawyer as early as possible to understand legal options for recovery and to launch an investigation into the circumstances of the crash, including whether the driver was distracted.

The personal injury attorneys at Dubin Law Group in Seattle and Everett fight for justice for injured car accident victims in the surrounding areas involved in crashes with distracted and negligent drivers.