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.


Washington Drivers Getting 6-Year Licenses

August 14, 2014

OLYMPIA—Starting this month, most Washington drivers renewing their licenses will have an additional year until their next visit to the Department of Licensing as the state transitions from a five-year driver license renewal cycle to a six-year cycle.

By extending the renewal cycle to six years, drivers in our state won’t have to visit DOL offices as often. Over time, this change also will reduce the number of drivers and ID card holders visiting DOL offices each year. This will help keep wait times as low as possible for all our customers.

The cost of a basic driver license or ID card will remain at $9 per year, but most customers will be paying for an additional year, so the total renewal cost will change from $45 for five years to $54 for six years.

Moving to a six-year driver license is expected to reduce the average number of annual renewals by more than 100,000. In order to evenly distribute all of our state’s licensed drivers into six years of roughly equal and lower renewal volumes, some drivers will be selected to receive a license extension for less than six years.

Beginning August 10, approximately 20 percent of drivers with licenses expiring in October will be selected at random by DOL’s license issuance system to receive a five-year license. The remaining 80 percent will receive a six-year license.

DOL will continue this gradual transition for the next five years by selecting 20 percent of drivers each year to receive licenses valid for less than six years. During the second year of this process, 20 percent of drivers will get a license valid for four years. In the third year, 20 percent will get a license valid for three years. In the fourth year, 20 percent will get a two-year license. In the final year, 20 percent will receive a one-year license.

Drivers randomly selected to receiving shorter renewal periods will only pay for the number of years their license is valid and will be eligible to renew online.

Click here for more info on DOL’s website.


Washington signs driver license agreement with Taiwan

August 7, 2014

reciprocity-agreement-signing-080514-1OLYMPIA— A new driver license reciprocity agreement between Taiwan and Washington state will make life a little easier for drivers wanting to transfer a license from one place to the other.

The agreement allows Taiwan nationals living in Washington, such as university students, to skip the driving and written licensing exams if they are already licensed to drive in Taiwan. It gives the same option to Washington residents living in Taiwan.

“This agreement allows the Department of Licensing to honor the driving tests previously taken by a citizen of Taiwan just like we would when serving a currently licensed driver from another state,” Department of Licensing Director Pat Kohler said.

Driver licensing officials here and in Taiwan worked together to evaluate each other’s driver licensing requirements and testing processes. This ensures drivers who hold either license are fully qualified to operate a vehicle safely in both places.

The agreement was finalized at a signing ceremony on August 5th in Olympia. Director General Andy Chin of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle joined Licensing Director Kohler in signing the agreement.

The agreement takes effect immediately. Drivers from Taiwan seeking a Washington license will need to visit the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Seattle to have their current license properly translated and verified prior to visiting a DOL driver licensing office.

Lt. Governor Brad Owen signed the agreement as a witness when it was signed by Taiwan’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei during a trade and cultural mission in June.

“I see this agreement as a small, but important step—one of many—that have been taken in recent times to make commerce, travel and tourism that much easier between Taiwan and the state of Washington,” Owen said.

This is Washington’s fourth international driver license reciprocity agreement. The state has similar agreements with British Columbia, South Korea, and Germany.


State begins rolling out six-year driver licenses on February 10

February 6, 2014
WA DOL

WA DOL

Beginning February 10, all new driver license applicants will receive a license that’s valid for six years, as the Department of Licensing starts transitioning from a five-year to a six-year driver license.

New driver license applicants include individuals applying for their first license and those who are transferring their licenses from another state.

The per-year cost for a driver license will remain at $9 per year, but new applicants will pay for the additional year, which changes the fee from $45 to $54, not including the $35 application fee.

Adding a new motorcycle endorsement for up to six years will cost $2 per year.

Washingtonians who are obtaining their first Washington state ID cards will also be issued a card valid for six years beginning on February 10, at a cost of $54, or $9 per year.

Those renewing a current Washington driver licenses or ID cards will start transitioning to a six-year renewal period later this year.

In 2012, the Washington State Legislature authorized extending driver’s license terms from five to six years to improve customer service by reducing customer volumes and wait times in driver license offices.