The penalties for distracted driving in Washington

The practice of distracted driving in Washington and throughout the U.S. results in numerous serious accidents every day. To put an end to this, the state of Washington asks observers to call 911 if they witness a driver under the influence of electronics.

While drivers may use devices such as hands-free Bluetooth, they may not use hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel under the rules of the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act.

The penalties

According to the Washington State Patrol, a person ticketed for using electronics under the 2017 state law will receive a ticket of at least $136. A second offense within five years results in a ticket of at least $236. In addition to using electronics, law enforcement authorities can penalize the following categories of distracted driving:

  • Grooming
  • Smoking
  • Eating
  • Reading

In these situations, the state patrol must pull over the driver for another traffic offense, and the activity must interfere with safe driving. The penalty for this offense begins with a $99 ticket. Insurance agencies receive reports of policy holders ticketed with cell phone citations.

The exceptions

Information provided by the Washington Traffic Safety Commission’s Target to Zero program clarifies when drivers can use electronics. For example, the law does not provide penalties to transit or emergency vehicle drivers, nor does it apply to users of two-way radio, citizens band radio or amateur radio equipment.

Regular drivers can use hand-held electronics in specific conditions. These include parked drivers and those out of the flow of traffic. No penalties exist for drivers using electronics to call emergency vehicles. The purpose of the crackdown was to reduce fatalities caused by distracted driving, which increased 32% from 2014 to 2015 in Washington.