Distracted driving, such as texting and driving, has been identified as one of the car crash causes in Washington. Notably, it has been related to car accidents involving teenage drivers.

Washington enacted a new distracted driving law which took effect on July 23, 2017. In addition to bans on the use of personal electronic devices, the law also prohibits other distracting behaviors such as shaving while driving.

It is illegal to drive while holding a PED, watching a video on this device or using a hand or finger to write, send, read, access, save or retrieve electronic data such as an email, text message or instant message. A driver may not use these devices when stopped at a red light, stop sign or in traffic.

Violators face a $136.00 fine for the first offense and additional violations within five years may be punishable by a $235.00 fine. Violations will be reported to the driver’s insurance carrier.

There are exclusions for contact emergency services, the minimal use of a finger while using these devices or using a PDE when the vehicle is pulled off the side of the road and is stopped in a safe location. It is still legal to use hands-free devices that are integrated into the car. Research has shown that these devices and voice-activated systems, however, are as distracting as using a hand-held device.

Washington’s new law also bans other behaviors that are a dangerous distraction. In addition to shaving and putting on make-up, these include eating, spilling coffee and driving with a dog on the motorist’s lap.

Police cannot stop a vehicle for these distractions. However, when this conduct leads to a violation such as swerving over a lane or tail-gating, an additional $99.00 may be added to the traffic citation.

The law also prohibits teenagers from using any wireless devices such as a handheld and hands-free cell phone and text messaging device while driving. This ban governs teenagers with instruction permits and intermediate driver license.

Motorists and passengers still face the risk of a distracted driver who chooses to risk the relatively light penalties of this law or engages in distractions that are not illegal. Distracted driving victims should seek prompt legal assistance to help gather evidence on distracted driving and to assure that they can pursue compensation.

Source: AAA Washington, “Washington State distracted driving,” Accessed Sept. 28, 2017