Washington State Patrol troopers will conduct a statewide emphasis on distracted driving from Friday, Sept. 21 through Sunday, Sept. 23, according to a State Patrol press release.
Distracted driving is the cause of 30 percent of traffic fatalities and makes up 23 percent of all serious injury collisions in the state, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. So far in 2018, the State Patrol has contacted 18,557 drivers for distracted driving. In 2017, troopers stopped 17,058 drivers.
Drivers are prohibited from using a personal electronic device while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway – which includes when stopped in traffic or at a traffic light, according to RCW 46.61.672. Personal electronic devices aren’t just limited to cellphones, but also includes laptop, tablets, gaming devices, etc. A driver is only allowed the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function on the device. However, drivers are allowed to use their phones if:
• It’s hands-free and can be started by using a single touch or swipe of a finger
• You are parked or stopped out of the flow of traffic and safely off the roadway
• Calling 911
The penalty for distracted driving is a $136 citation for the first offense. If you’re issued another citation within five years, the penalty raises to at least $234. Additionally, each offense is reported to your insurance companies.
Drivers can also be penalized for a secondary violation of dangerously distracted under RCW 46.61.673. Drivers can receive an additional $99 penalty for being dangerously distracted if a driver commits a traffic violation because they were distracted.