As the creator of the AAA School Safety Patrol program, AAA hears all the time from safety patrol advisors and patrollers about near misses with drivers who are distracted by their cell phones. AAA, along with many stakeholders, worked diligently to get this law passed for the safety of our patrollers and all road users. AAA encourages everyone to set aside all distractions when behind the wheel, especially in school zones where children are hard to see and don’t know the rules of the road.
Law Goes Into Effect July 23; $136 Fine
On July 23, Washington’s new distracted driving law goes into effect. The new law makes it illegal to use personal electronic devices while driving, even if you’re stopped at a traffic sign/signal or stuck in traffic. If pulled over, it’s a $136 fine, which doubles after the first time and is reportable to your insurance company.
The law bans:
- Holding a cell phone or personal electronic device
- Using a hand or finger to compose, send, read, save or retrieve email, text messages, social media posts, photographs or other electronic data
- Watching videos
Drivers can use their cell phones to contact emergency services; when stopped in a safe location; and to activate, deactivate or initiate a function on the device using minimal action. Although the law does allow the use of a hands-free or an in-vehicle technology system, AAA research (http://exchange.aaa.com/safety/distracted-driving/#.WWbdxLpFw2x) shows that these systems are just as, or more distracting, than using a cell phone. We urge motorists to refrain from using any device or engaging in any behavior that takes your attention off the primary task of driving.
No Change in Teen Rules
Washington’s new distracted driving law does not change the rules for teens with an Intermediate Driver’s License. They still cannot use ANY personal electronic device when they’re behind the wheel.
Dangerous Distracted Driving Can Lead to Additional $99 Fine
In addition, the new law includes a “dangerous distracted driving” section. If you are pulled over for a driving infraction and it is found that you were dangerously distracted when committing the driving infraction, you will receive an additional $99 fine. This would include things like grooming, smoking, eating, or having pets in your lap.
How to Prevent Distracted Driving
We often rely on laws to tell us how to be safe, and Washington’s distracted driving law doesn’t get us their yet. Your friends at AAA hope that you’ll go beyond being a law abiding driver and be a safe driver by putting away your device.
Here’s how you can prevent distracted driving:
- Turn off or put away all personal electronic devices
- Adjust GPS, stereo and other in-vehicle systems before you hit the road
- Pull off the road to take a call, eat or groom
- Don’t call or text someone if you know they’re driving
For more information about the new law or distracted driving, go to AAA.com/distracteddrivingwa.