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Washington State

Distracted Driving

Washington State

The Law | Tips to Avoid Driving Distracted | AAA Research

Driving may feel like second-nature, but it is a very complex, multitask activity that requires you to process constant changes to the roadway, traffic signals/signs, decisions by other drivers, and proximity to other vehicles. When distracted behind the wheel, you have slower reaction times and suppressed brain activity, you scan the road less and can miss visual cues, critical events or objects, all of which can lead to a crash.

Washington State’s New Distracted Driving Law

Washington’s new distracted driving law goes into effect on July 23, 2017. The law makes it illegal to use a handheld personal electronic device while driving, even if you’re stopped at a traffic sign/signal or stuck in traffic. Here’s what you need to know:

What’s now illegal:

  • Holding a personal electronic device.
  • Using a hand or finger to compose, send, read, view, access, browse, transmit, save, or retrieve electronic mail (email), text messages, instant messages, photographs or other electronic data.
  • Watching a video on your device.

Exceptions:

  • When your vehicle is pulled over to the side of (or off of) the road and has stopped in a location where it can safely remain stationary.
  • If you need to contact emergency services.
  • The minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of a device.

What’s still legal – but not safe:

  • Using hands-free personal electronic devices and devices that are integrated into your vehicle.*

*According to AAA research, the use of hands-free devices and voice-activated systems is just as distracting as use of a hand-held cell phone. So, while the law will help reduce distracted driving, it still doesn’t prohibit all dangerous distractions.

Consequences:

  • The first infraction is a $136 fine.
  • The infraction will be reported to your insurance company.
  • Second and subsequent tickets within a five year period will double the penalty, which could result in a $235 fine.

In addition to targeting electronic devices, the new law also makes illegal a variety of other “Dangerous Distracted Driving” practices. 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 includes actions such as grooming, smoking, eating, or having a pet in your lap.


5 Tips to Avoid Driving Distracted

Although Washington’s new Distracted Driving law focuses mostly on the use of personal electronic devices, any time you can’t fully focus on the road ahead, you are distracted. Accordingly, here are some easy-to-follow tips for avoiding driving distracted:

  1. Turn your electronic device off or put it into airplane mode, or place it somewhere where you won’t be tempted to reach for it.
  2. Prepare for your drive before you set out: check for traffic, tune the radio, set your GPS, adjust your mirrors, get kids in their car seats, secure your dog or finish eating.
  3. If you have passengers, enlist their help with navigation, attending to backseat passengers and changing the music.
  4. Store loose items that could roll around in the car, so you do not feel tempted to reach for them.
  5. If something demands your attention, pull off the road to a safe location.

Understanding the Dangers of Distracted Driving

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has conducted extensive research to show how truly dangerous using a cell phone is when you’re behind the wheel.  Their first-of-its-kind research demonstrates how using a cell phone and hands-free technology can dangerously divert a driver’s attention by taking their eyes off the road, hands off the wheel and mind off of driving.  Learn more about the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety’s distracted driving research.  

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