This morning I drove on South 19th from Cheney Stadium to UW Tacoma and one thing was readily apparent: it’s going to be easy pickings for police come January 2018 when they start writing tickets for hands-on electronics use. At nearly every stoplight I could easily see at least one other driver typing on or reading their phone — which are both acts that have been illegal since July.
It isn’t just Tacomans breaking the law. Washington State observation teams have found close to 1 in 10 motorists are holding a device at any given moment.
Despite the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) Act going into effect this past summer, the Washington State Patrol has used the past six months as a grace period to educate drivers with warnings rather than write tickets.
Here’s what you need to know before ticketing begins in 2018:
- Handheld use–including composing or reading any kind of message–taking a picture, or using data while driving is forbidden.
- The law covers all handheld gadgets, including phones, tablets, laptop computers and gaming devices.
- A DUIE is a primary offense, meaning a police officer can pull someone over just for using a handheld device.
- Holding a phone to your ear is illegal (as is holding a phone between your legs or just below your chin).
- Make no mistake, “while driving” includes being at a stop sign or red-light signal.
Here are the ways you can use a cell phone while driving:
- Drivers are permitted “minimal use of a finger” to activate an app or device if it is mounted in a cradle.
- Built-in electronic systems, such as hands-free calling and maps, remain legal.
- Calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal.
- Amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio are still legal as well.
- Use of a handheld device is allowed if the driver has pulled off the road, to a place where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”
An initial ticket for violating the DUIE laws will cost you $136, while a second infraction can run up to $272.
Once pulled over for any primary reason (such as speeding, a dangerous lane change, or electronic use), drivers are subject to additional secondary offense infractions. Distractions such as grooming or eating can tack an extra $30 on to your ticket.
Here’s to safe driving and full wallets in 2018, Tacoma!