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Distracted Driving and Cell Phone Law | Washington State
Distracted Driving

  • Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.

    Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

    You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.  (Source:  NHTSA)

  • Put your phone away while you are driving.  Effective July 23, 2017, drivers are banned from holding a phone or other electronic device while driving in the State of Washington, even if the motorist is stopped at a red light.  This includes any use of a phone, tablet, or other device, texting, tweeting, or Facebook posting, all behind the wheel, a ticketable offense.  It will come with a $136 penalty for first offenders; and that penalty will jump to $235 for a second offense.

    Secondary offenses to this law
    are drivers who are grooming, smoking and eating in the car. 

    The bill also
    makes distracted driving first offenses reportable to insurance companies, meaning the practical penalties of increased rates could cost more than the ticket over the long run.

    It is a safety hazard to text while driving. 
    Drivers looking at their screen instead of looking at where they are going, can miss seeing potential hazards.  (Source:  Governor Jay Inslee, Yakima Herald-Republic, June 2017)  
  • The following estimates show the number of distracted driving-related crashes in recent years:

    Washington State:

    • 2016  -  Nearly 17,000 drivers were pulled over for using handheld phones; in addition, thousands of others hid their phones from law enforcement vehicles.
    • 2016 -  9.2% of drivers were distracted, including 5.6% who were holding or manipulating phones. 
    • 2015 -   171 deaths in Washington State (a jump from 130 in 2014)
    • 2015 -  30% of all 2015 fatal collisions  were caused by distracted driving in Washington State. 

    Nationwide Stats:
  • 2015 -  3,477 deaths occurred,
    and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.
  • 2012 -  over 3,300 deaths, and 420,000 injuries occurred
    (Sources:  Washington State Traffic Safety Commission; National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • 2015 - Approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones while driving during daylight hours.  That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads. Teens were the largest age group reported as distracted at the time of fatal crashes.
    (NHTSA) data)
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