New law encourages drivers to keep their eyes on the road

By Stefanie Donahue

Drivers using a handheld device while roaming Washington roads now face a hefty fine as a result of a new distracted driving law that went into effect July 23.

Under the law, drivers are restricted from using a handheld device – such as a cellphone, tablet or laptop – while in motion or stalled in traffic. It’s now against the law to watch videos, use cameras, type messages or access information from a handheld device while in transit.

Hands-free devices are permitted and can be swiped once to power the device.

Handheld devices can only be used if the vehicle is parked or out of the flow of traffic. Drivers will also not be fined for using handheld devices to contact emergency personnel.

Tickets issued for Driving Under the Influence of Electronics, or E-DUIs, are reported to insurance companies and total $136 for the first offence and $234 for the second offence.

In May, Washington state governor Jay Inslee vetoed the provision that delayed the law from going into effect on January 1, 2019 in order to roll out the new rules as soon as possible.

“Fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, and 71 percent of distracted drivers are engaging in the most dangerous distraction, using their cell phones behind the wheel,” read a statement from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “With the passage and signing of the `Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act,’ the governor and legislature are taking needed action to address an urgent problem.”

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