Beginning tomorrow, July 23rd, the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics law (E-DUI) will go into effect. Under this law, it will be against the law for Washington drivers to use hand-held cell phones while they are driving. This includes all electronic devices. Tickets for driving while using hand-held electronics will go on the driver’s record and be reported to their insurance provider.
In short, the E-DUI law prohibits hand-held phone or other electronic device use while driving. This includes when stopped in traffic or at a traffic light. Prohibited activity includes typing messages or accessing information and watching videos or using cameras.
Drivers can still use devices that are engaged with a single touch or swipe without holding the phone. Drivers parked or out-of-the-flow of traffic or who are contacting emergency services are exempt from the law. Two-way radio, citizens band radio and amateur radio equipment are not included in the law.
The rationale behind the new law is simple according to officials at Target Zero, a statewide initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030. Fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent in Washington from 2014 to 2015, 71 percent of distracted drivers engage in cell phone use behind the wheel and 25% of crashes involve cell phone use just prior to the crash.
The Washington State Patrol say they will employ a 6-month grace “period” during which troopers will focus more on educating drivers about the new law rather than writing tickets. Still, drivers run the risk of getting a ticket if distracted driving violations are observed along with other dangerous driving behaviors or if they have already received a warning about the new law.
It is considered a primary offense when a law enforcement observes a driver making contact with their devices other than to perform a single touch or swipe. Primary offenses will be reported to drivers’ insurance companies.
Uber, Lyft and other ride share services are not exempt from these new laws but authorized transit drivers and emergency vehicle personnel, including WSP troopers, are exempt. Drivers of commercial vehicles must follow federal laws.
The first primary E-DUI offense will cost $136, a second E-DUI within five years is $234 and the dangerously distracted (secondary offenses such as eating, smoking and other distractions) will cost $99.
Target Zero officials advise drivers who cannot resist the urge to use their devices to pass them to a passenger, put them out of reach (e.g. in the glove box) or turn them off before driving.
The following Western Cape (Africa) government’s video about texting and driving has gone viral since being posted about a week ago. It’s part of their “Safely Home” campaign to curb distracted driving, highlighting the dangers of using an electronic device while driving.