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.


Target Zero Teams: 70 Lives Saved in King, Pierce, Snohomish Counties

June 30, 2011

Are you one of the 70? Is your spouse? How about your children? Your teacher?

Any of those could be among the 70 people in King, Pierce and Snohomish counties whose lives were saved since Target Zero Teams hit the streets one year ago. The $6 million demonstration project was launched July 1, 2010.

“We expected to see a reduction, of course. But this exceeds our expectations for the project,” said Lowell Porter, Director of the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “70 lives in just three counties, in just one year.”

Of course it’s impossible to know exactly who wasn’t killed. But it is possible to say how many weren’t.

In each of the five years prior to launching the Target Zero Teams, an average of 203 people died in traffic in the three test counties. In the year immediately following launch, the number dropped to 133.

The Commission also found that deaths in King, Pierce and Snohomish compared favorably to two similar counties that were pre-designated as control counties for the Target Zero Teams demonstration project. Finally, while traffic deaths are trending down statewide and nationwide, the drop seen in the Target Zero counties is steeper than the general trend.

“We now believe this high-visibility enforcement strategy is impacting all crashes, not just DUIs,” Porter said. “When police are out in force, drivers tend to slow down and buckle up. That saves even more lives.”

At the core of the teams are 21 Washington State Troopers and sergeants, augmented by local sheriff’s deputies and city police officers as time and funding permit. The teams patrol in very specific places: areas where drunk drivers have killed in the past.
During the past year, Target Zero Teams from all agencies have arrested more than 3,400 impaired drivers. But State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste is quick to add that Target Zero is about much more than just making arrests.

“From day one we’ve said we would measure success by a reduction in fatalities,” said State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste. “These interim results make us think we’re on the right track, and we look forward to final results after another year of hard work.”

Patrols are not limited to freeways or state highways. Troopers, deputies and officers go where the data leads them. That means state troopers might be patrolling city streets, or city officers on the freeway.


On multi-lane freeways, keep right, except to pass

March 7, 2011