Traffic safety commission: E-DUI law now being enforced

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If you are still distracting yourself with your phone while driving there’s no more forgiveness as the grace period for Washington’s new distracted driving law is over.

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission reminded state motorists that a hold-harmless period on distracted drivers has ended, six months after the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) law ostensibly took effect. Up until Jan. 1 officers were giving out warnings — nearly 6,500 since July 23, 2017, according to a news release.

Now, however, drivers caught using phones or other electronic devices such as tablets and laptops will receive a $136 ticket for their offense. This applies to motorists driving as well as stopped in traffic or at a stoplight and restricts hands-free use to a single touch.

“When you drive distracted, you are putting both yourself and other drivers in danger,” WSP Chief John R. Batiste stated in the release. “By eliminating distractions while driving, we will move closer to reaching the statewide Target Zero goal of no fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.”

Fatalities from distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015 in Washington, the release stated, and one out of four crashes involves cell phone use just prior to the crash.

Though the first E-DUI ticket will cost drivers $136, drivers incurring a second ticket within five years will have their fine increase to $234, the release stated. The law also makes all information on cell phone infractions available to insurance companies.

“All of the distracted driving crashes and fatalities we are seeing are completely preventable,” Washington Traffic Safety Commission Director Darrin Grondel stated in the release. “Washington’s law is a bold step toward changing the culture of phone use in the car and we believe it will have a profound impact on making our roads safer for drivers and pedestrians.”

The law also covers other forms of dangerous distractions. For example, if motorists commit a traffic violation and the person was distracted by another activity such as reading, shaving or applying makeup they can receive a $99 ticket for driving while “dangerously distracted.” 

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