Drivers need to put down their phones and drive or risk being fined under new law

July 20, 2017

New Distracted Driving Law

Effective July 23, , Washington drivers will not be permitted to hold or operate hand-held electronic devices while they are driving. Use of devices such as cell phones, tablets, video-games and laptops to text, access information, take pictures and talk, even while stopped in traffic, is prohibited under the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) Act. “Hands-free” devices such as mounted dashboard screens and Bluetooth can be used legally, but only with a single touch to start use.

*Exemptions include drivers using a personal electronic device to contact emergency services; certain transit employees and commercial drivers (within the scope of their employment) and drivers operating authorized emergency vehicles.

In the U.S., distracted driving caused 3,477 traffic deaths in 2015, a 9 percent increase from the year before, and “a deadly epidemic,” according to the National Safety Council. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), 71 percent of distracted drivers are engaging in the most dangerous distraction, using their cell phones behind the wheel. The new law in Washington is part of Target Zero, a statewide initiative to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Washington’s roadways to zero by the year 2030.

Currently, texting or holding a cellphone to the ear while driving carries a fine of $124 in Washington State. Starting July 23, using a hand-held device while driving will be considered a primary offense and law enforcement will be issuing fines $136-$234 to violators. In addition, a citation will be added to your driving record and reported to insurance providers. You can also receive a $99 ticket for other types of distractions such as grooming, smoking, eating, or reading if the activity interferes with safe driving, and you are pulled over for another traffic offense.

The WTSC recommends the following tips for complying with the new law:

  1. Turn off your phone and put it in the glove box
  2. If you’re a passenger, hold the driver’s phone
  3. Don’t text or call a friend or loved one if you know they are driving
  4. If using GPS on your phone, plug in the address before you start the car and use a mounted phone holder
  5. Talk to family members (especially teen drivers) about the risks of cell phone use. Model responsible behavior by not using your phone while in the car

For more information about the new law visit http://www.wadrivetozero.com/distracted-driving.


Go online and you may be able to skip waiting in line at DOL

July 11, 2017

Since 2015, more than 400,000 customers waited in line unnecessarily at Washington State driver licensing offices for transactions they could have completed from the comfort of home by visiting dol.wa.gov.

If all 400,000 had gone online, the result would have been an average of 13,000 fewer people in line per month. Less in-office traffic means downsized wait times so that customers can quickly get back to the responsibilities and activities in their lives that matter.

Our online services don’t eliminate the need for all in-office transactions, however many common licensing needs such as changing an address or renewing a license can be easily completed on your phone or computer. The information provided at dol.wa.gov can help also you avoid long wait times and unnecessary trips.

Plan on visiting us soon? Review the following reminders for a more efficient experience:

 

  1. Skip a trip, renew online

Did you know that you only need to update your driver license photo every other renewal cycle? That’s once every twelve years! If you don’t need a new photo, just go to dol.wa.gov to see if you can renew and skip the line! You’ll conveniently receive a new license within days and avoid having to come up with a clever hashtag to accompany that obligatory “never ending line at the DOL” tweet. Unsure about whether the services you need are offered online or if you are eligible to renew online? Check out DOL’s online services page.

  1. Know before you go

Arriving at the front of the line just to discover the piece of identification necessary to complete your transaction is sitting on the kitchen counter at home is everyone’s least favorite way to wrap up lunch hour. Visit dol.wa.gov to find out which documents and identification you’ll need to bring in so that our staff can take care of your licensing needs. Also keep in mind that we are not able to accept photocopies of documents.

  1. Visit during the middle of the week

If you must visit an office in person, try to head in before noon — preferably during the middle of the week.

  1. Beware the lunch hour line

This may seem like a given, but please let us reiterate: Do not visit a licensing office between noon and one pm! We guarantee that on any given afternoon several other people had the exact same idea and staffing may be more limited due to staff rotating off the counter to take their lunch break.

 

  1. Check the calendar for holidays

We know your ideal Christmas Eve would be spent refreshing your newsfeed while waiting for your number to be called, but please avoid visiting us on holidays, as our offices are usually closed. When in doubt, go online to check the hours of operation of the office you plan to visit and remember to anticipate a spike in wait times in the days prior to and following a long weekend.