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.


New web tool helps consumers identify vehicle safety recalls

December 5, 2016

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that vehicle recalls are at an all-time high, meaning millions of unfixed and unsafe vehicles are on the road.

NHTSA’s new online search tool lets you enter a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) to quickly learn if a specific vehicle has not been repaired as part of a safety recall in the last 15 years.

You can find NHTSA’s new VIN search tool at www.safercar.gov/VIN.

NHTSA stresses that vehicles in need of safety-related repairs should be fixed as soon as possible, and that doing so could save lives.


May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

May 11, 2016

motorcycle safety transit ad

Rising temperatures in our state mean an increasing number of motorcycle riders will be out on our roads. These riders can be difficult to see on busy roads because of their smaller size and profile. Motorists should take an extra moment to look twice. A second look can save a motorcyclist’s life.

May is nationally recognized as Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month to bring attention to motorcycle safety. In 2015, 72 riders lost their lives in motorcycle collisions. That’s 72 people who went for a ride and did not make it home.

“Motorcycle safety depends both on motorists sharing the road with motorcycles and motorcyclists making good decisions to help them reach their destinations safely.  If everyone does their part, I am confident we will see fatalities drop in 2016,” said Department of Licensing Director Pat Kohler.

To help drivers understand what they can do to make roads safer for motorcyclists, the DOL’s Motorcycle Safety Program created a motorcycle awareness video called “A Second Look” that has received hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube and millions of shares around the world on Facebook.

In 2015, 73 percent of the motorcycle fatalities were the fault of the rider, with the top three causes being alcohol or drug impairment, rider negligence, or excessive speed. Riders have the ability to minimize or eliminate these risks through continued training.

DOL’s Motorcycle Safety Program will promote the benefits of motorcycle rider training this year with an exciting new video called “Training is Everything”.

Emphasizing the importance of choices and consequences while riding, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission created the IT’S A FINE LINE website filled with interesting information and opportunities to get involved with state motorcycle safety efforts.

More information about motorcycle safety training and motorcycle endorsement requirements is available on the DOL website.

The playlist below features six videos concerning motorcycle safety, including the videos mentioned in this blog post.


Protecting Teen Drivers with 5 simple rules

October 16, 2015

5-to-drive-1National Teen Driver Safety Week is Oct. 18-24, and the Washington State Patrol, Washington Traffic Safety Commission, numerous partners around the state, and the Department of Licensing want to encourage parents to use the “5 to Drive” rules to talk to their teen drivers about safety on the road.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death for teens and young adults. In 2014, there were 530 serious injury crashes and 147 fatalities among Washington drivers between the ages of 16 and 25.

“Young drivers need extra support and parents can help reduce the risk of a crash by insisting teens follow our state’s intermediate driver licensing requirements and insisting on safe driving behavior,” said Pat Kohler, DOL Director. “We’re promoting the ‘5 to Drive’ rules as a simple, common sense way parents can keep teen drivers safe.”

Parents can easily ask their teens to agree to the following “5 to Drive” rules before handing over their car keys:

“Distracted and impaired driving can be prevented,” said Washington State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “This is an opportunity for parents to act as positive role models and talk to their teenagers about these simple steps to prevent tragedies before they occur.”

For more information about Teen Driver Safety Week and the “5 to Drive” campaign, please visit the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at: www.safercar.gov/parents. It has detailed information and statistics, and informative videos designed to help save the lives of teen drivers.

The video below is from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s YouTube channel. This video shows us why it’s important for parents to talk to their teens about this important issue.


New “Training is Everything” videos highlight importance of continued motorcycle training

October 1, 2015

The Washington Motorcycle Safety Program is proud to announce the release of a powerful new public safety video, Training is Everything. This seven minute video, filled with stunning cinematography and powerful interviews, presents a compelling case for all riders to sign up for initial and continued motorcycle training.

The video features motorcycle riders, an elite Army Apache helicopter pilot, champion hydroplane racer Chip Hanauer, rugby players from Seattle Slam, and motorcycle safety specialists. Within it they discuss the importance of training and how the physical and mental skills required to fly combat helicopters, race hydroplanes, and even compete in rugby compare to those required to ride motorcycles.  Pilots, race drivers, and athletes train constantly to be on their game. By doing the same, riders—whether novices or experienced, year-round riders or summer cruisers—can both ride more safely and get more out of themselves and their bikes.

A scene from "Training is Everything." a powerful new public safety video stressing the importance of continued motorcycle training.

A scene from “Training is Everything,” a new public safety video series stressing the importance of continued motorcycle training.

Accompanying the full-length version of the video are two 30-second public service announcements to use as further tools to speak to riders about the main messages of the film—that a large percentage of rider fatalities are, in fact, caused by the riders themselves. By training for the physical and mental art that is motorcycling, riders can get the most from their ride, get home safely, and then go ride more.

Training is Everything, filmed by Twisted Scholar, was made possible through a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Training is everything when you fly, when you race, and when you compete, and training is everything when you ride.

*please note: All three videos in the Training is Everything series are featured in the playlist at the top of this post.


Rider’s cross-country trek promoting motorcycle safety reaches Olympia

July 27, 2015
Nate Hudson and DOL Director Pat Kohler holding a copy of the video, "A Second Look," in Olympia on July 23.

Nate Hudson and DOL Director Pat Kohler holding a copy of the video, “A Second Look,” in Olympia on July 23.

Motorcyclist Nate Hudson is logging 17,000 miles during the course of the “Ride for Awareness” campaign, sponsored by Allstate Insurance Company.

On July 23, Hudson’s journey reached Olympia, where he spoke with Department of Licensing Director Pat Kohler.

Hudson praised Washington state’s efforts to protect riders on the roads, including the DOL’s video,  A Second Look.

The video addresses the role of motorists concerning motorcycle safety.

For more information about the Ride for Awareness campaign, visit Allstate.com/ride.

And for regular updates on Hudson’s whereabouts as he travels the country, checkout Instagram.com/BA_Moto.


Everyone has a responsibility to keep motorcyclists safe

May 7, 2015
DOL image

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month.

May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and the Department of Licensing (DOL), Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC), Washington State Patrol (WSP), and the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) have teamed up to remind drivers of cars, trucks and buses to look out for, and share the road with, motorcycle riders.

“Motorcycle safety depends on safe driving and cooperation of everyone on the road, whether they’re on a bike or in a car,” said Governor Jay Inslee. “We’re getting closer to our Target Zero traffic safety goals but have more work to do.”

Target Zero is Washington’s Strategic Highway Safety Plan to reduce the number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero by the year 2030. In Washington, motorcycle deaths are not steadily declining like overall traffic deaths. From 2011 through 2013, motorcycles made up just 4 percent of the registered vehicles on our roads, but accounted for almost 17 percent of all traffic fatalities (225 of 1327).

In just the first four months (January-April) of 2015, there have been nine motorcyclist fatalities. The five year average (2010-2014) for this same four month time period is 12 fatalities. Speeding, running off the road, and riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs are the main contributing factors in these crashes. Motorcyclists should always ride sober and within the posted speed limits, get the required training and endorsement, and wear DOT compliant helmets and protective gear.

Several projects are underway in Washington to reduce serious motorcycle crashes. A campaign called “It’s A Fine Line” promotes safe riding through social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. DOL training contractors are distributing motorcycle hangtags to dealerships statewide to encourage riders of all skill levels to get certified training.

DOL also produced a motorist awareness video that has gone viral. It’s titled, A Second Look.

Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month is a national initiative designed to encourage drivers of all other kinds of vehicles and motorcyclists to share the road with each other. For more information on motorcycle safety, visit www.nhtsa.gov/Safety/Motorcycles.