On the road, off the phone! New distracted driving law in effect

There’s a new DUI in town.

Meet E-DUI (more formally, Driving Under the Influence of Electronics), Washington State’s new distracted driving law that went into effect July 23. The law is part of Washington’s Target Zero efforts. And yes (in case you were wondering), Target Zero and Vision Zero are cousins, both committed to ending traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2030, through engineering, education, and enforcement.

In Seattle, we’ve seen distracted driving on the rise – a 300% increase (from 2011 to 2014) – contributing to 3,000 of the 10,000 crashes per year on city streets. Statewide, fatalities from distracted driving increased 32% from 2014 to 2015.

These crashes are preventable. It’s no accident to be texting your friend, scrolling through your social media feeds, or finding that perfect song. These are all choices that could change someone’s life forever.

Here’s what you need to know about the new law:

  • No hand-held cell phone use while driving (even when you’re stopped in traffic or at a light). But what about…? Nope. Zero. Zilch. Nada.*(unless you’re calling 911)
  • You CAN use your device if you are
    • Hands free (Bluetooth) and can start use by a single touch or swipe without holding the phone
    • Parked or out of the flow of traffic
    • Starting your GPS or music before you drive
    • Contacting emergency services
  • How much does a ticket cost?
    • First E-DUI: $136
    • Second E-DUI (within 5 years): $234
    • Plus (this is new): all violations will be available to your insurance company (READ: increased insurance rates)
  • Not included in the law
    • Transit and emergency vehicle drivers are exempt. Drivers of commercial vehicles must follow federal laws
    • 2-way radio, citizen band radios, or amateur radio equipment are not included in the law

Dangerously distracted

You can also get a $99 ticket for other types of distractions, like grooming, smoking, eating, or reading if the activity interferes with safe driving AND you’re pulled over for another traffic offense.

Bottom line, if you’re on the road, get off your phone.

Our colleagues at the Seattle Police Department will be educating people on the road, issuing warnings in July and August before they start issuing tickets in September. For more resources and information (including translated info, videos, and print), head to www.wadrivetozero.com/distracted-driving.