New distracted driving law enforced

By Stefanie Donahue

Just two weeks after Washington state rolled out its new distracted driving law on July 23, Washington State Patrol (WSP) released its first set of statistics, detailing the number of violations, citations and warnings issued between July 23 and July 29.

In short, the law fines drivers for using a handheld device, such as a cellphone or tablet, either while in motion or stopped. It’s against the law for drivers to stream videos, type messages or access information on a handheld device while driving.

Handheld devices can be used if the driver is parked or if they’re mounted to a dashboard and used for hands-free navigation and calling. Devices can also be used to contact emergency personnel.

Violators run the risk of receiving a Driving Under the Influence of Electronic ticket, which are reported to insurance companies and cost $136 for the first offence and $234 for the second.

WSP is observing a six-month grace period to educate drivers but still plans to issue tickets when necessary. “If troopers observe distracted driving violations coupled with other dangerous driving behaviors, or if you’ve already received a warning about the new law, you run the risk of getting a ticket,” read a statement from WSP.

According to the WSP, troopers made contact with 337 violators; issued 27 citations; wrote four written warnings; and issued 306 verbal warnings between July 23 to July 29.

Previously, using a handheld device was a secondary offence, meaning a driver couldn’t be stopped unless he or she had committed another primary offence such as speeding. Using a handheld device is now considered a primary offence and police can pull someone over if they see they are using a device.

In the week leading up to the law going into effect, between July 16 and July 22, troopers made contact with 273 drivers using cellphones on the road; issued 118 citations; made no written warnings; and issued 155 verbal warnings.

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