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New Driving Law In Washington In Effect

Washington’s new driving law forbids holding anything in your hands while driving.

Do I have your attention?  Good! We want to make sure no one gets caught off guard with this new law.

While the law isn’t written to say exactly that, it is basically that strict.  If you are a driver, you need to know about it.  You’ll find a Q& A at the bottom of this article for you to reference for specific questions.

The new law states that you can’t have anything in your hands that could distract you.  This includes cell phones, food, doing your make-up….anything.  So, while you can go through a drive through and get yourself food, you can’t eat it or drink it  without the risk of getting a fine – if you are pulled over for a primary offense such as speeding or being on your phone.  Getting a coffee at Starbucks….don’t get caught drinking and driving with it.


This new DUIE law is primarily geared toward having drivers cut back on any hand held devices being used while driving.  DUIE stands for Driving Under Influence of Electronics.

This includes cell phones, GPS devices, Kindles, and IPods.   As reported by the Yakima Herald’s article, “Hands Off: New Washington State Law on Distracted Driving Taking Effect,” by Miles Jay Oliver the new law forbids, “Simply holding a cellphone in your hand – even at a stoplight – is enough to get you pulled over and cited with a potential fine of $136.  Get caught doing it again and you’ll pay $235.”

Washington State Trooper Stephen Robley says, “The cell phone – you could hold it, have it on speaker, hold it up to you. As long as you didn’t hold it up to your ear, that’s when it became illegal,” as reported by KATU 2 News author Lashay Wesley.

Nitty Gritty of the Law

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty of the law and what the RCW has to say.  The new section added to chapter 46.61 RCW states:

A person who uses a personal electronic device while driving a motor vehicle on a public highway is guilty of a traffic infraction and must pay a fine as provided in RCW 46.63.110(3)
“Driving” means to operate a motor vehicle on a public highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic (for example when you’re stuck in traffic) , a traffic control device (like a stop light), or other momentary delays.
“Driving” does not include when the vehicle has pulled over to the side of, or off of, an active roadway and has stopped in a location where it can safely remain stationary.
“Personal electronic device” means any portable electronic device that is capable of wireless communication or electronic data retrieval and is not manufactured primarily for hands-free use in a motor vehicle. “Personal electronic device” includes, but is not limited to, a cell phone, tablet, laptop, two-way messaging device, or electronic game. “Personal electronic device” does not include two-way radio, citizens band radio, or amateur radio equipment. (So it is ok to use a CB Radio but not a cell phone).
“Use” or “uses” means: Holding a personal electronic device in either hand or both hands; Using your hand or finger to compose, send, read, view, access, browse, transmit, save, or retrieve email, text messages, instant messages, photographs, or other electronic data (that would include Shazaming that awesome song that just came on the radio – love that app!); however, this does not preclude the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device; (it also includes) Watching video on a personal electronic device.

Now how about that burger or coffee?

Watch this video from KREM 2 with Washington State Patrol Officer Jeff as he explains about eating or drinking while driving: What the new distracted driving law actually enforces.

Eating or drinking will be a secondary violation.  What is a secondary violation?  This means that they won’t pull you over for that violation.  However, if they do pull you over for something like speeding or holding a cell phone, they can tack the secondary violation onto the first violation.  So you can eat while drinking, but if you get pulled over for anything else, taking a bite out of that burger could end up taking a bite out of your wallet.
It is a traffic infraction to drive dangerously distracted. Any driver who commits this infraction must be assessed a base penalty of thirty dollars. Enforcement of the infraction of driving dangerously distracted may be accomplished only as a secondary action when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of a separate traffic infraction or an equivalent local ordinance. For the purposes of this section, “dangerously distracted” means a person who engages in any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of such motor vehicle on any highway.”

What Drivers Can and Cannot Do

As reported in Seattle Times article “What Drivers Can and Cannot Do Under Washington State’s New Distracted Driving Law”  by Mike Lindblom,  here is a list for your reference:

Q. What is banned?

A. Texting is already illegal, as is holding a cellphone at the ear. Drivers constantly flout those rules, or evade them by holding a phone between the legs, or just below the chin.

 The new bill forbids handheld uses, including composing or reading any kind of message, picture or data. Photography while driving is illegal.

Drivers also cannot use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal.

Q. What is still legal?

A. Drivers may still use a smartphone mounted in a dashboard cradle, for instance to use a navigation app, but not to watch video. The new law permits “minimal use of a finger” to activate an app or device. (So maybe that Shazam app is still legal?)

Built-in electronic systems, such as hands-free calling and maps, remain legal.

Calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal, as are urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers.

Amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio, remain legal.

Handheld devices may be used if the driver has pulled off the roadway or traffic lanes, where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”

Q. What are the penalties?

A. The standard traffic fine of $136 would nearly double to $235 on the second distracted-driving citation.

Q. Is DUIE a primary offense?

A. Yes. A police officer can pull someone over just for using a handheld device.

Q. What about other kinds of distraction?

A. Miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating are to be considered a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law-enforcement officer pulls you over for some other offense, such as speeding or a dangerous lane change. The penalty will be an extra $30.
Be safe and smart out there on the roads. Keep your hands on the wheel to keep your money in your wallet and not in the state coffers.


1920 N. Pittsburgh St., Suite A

Kennewick, WA 99336

Posted by: everstar on August 2, 2017
Posted in: Uncategorized