SEATTLE – On Sunday Washington’s new distracted driving law went into effect. Drivers will now get a ticket for being on the phone or holding any electronic device behind the wheel.
State troopers say they will hand out warnings for six months but if a trooper decides actions of a driver warrant a ticket they will write one.
Police departments across western Washington say they will give drivers time to adjust to the new law but that the law is on the books and they will be enforcing it.
The distracted driving law means drivers may not use hand-held cell phones while driving, stopped in traffic or at a stop light. This includes tablets, laptops, games or other hand-held electronic devices. Drivers cannot watch movies while driving. Hands-free use is limited to a single touch or swipe.
Law enforcement agencies suggest plugging in routes on a phone and starting music before driving.
The ticket, an E-DUI will cost $136 dollars on the first offense and at least $234 on the second. Violations will be available to insurance companies.
"Nothing that’s on this makes a difference,” says Tina Meyer while holding a cell phone. Meyer has fought tirelessly for this law after her son Cody died in May 2016 after being hit by a driver who was on the phone while he was working as a flagger in Issaquah.
"He was my everything, and I was by his side every day,” said Meyer holding back tears.
She says this law will save lives but understands not everyone is happy about it.
There’s going to be a lot of people that complain, but they’re going to have to learn a new behavior,” said Meyer.
Carrie Rick who just moved to Seattle from Michigan says the law is a bit harsh. She says she uses her phone for maps and with Seattle’s traffic congestion the routes change and she looks at her phone for updates on faster routes and directions.
“It seems a little extreme. I use my phone a lot for maps, especially with all the traffic, all the different routes you can take are constantly changing so it seems problematic on that sense, but I can see how it has good intentions,” said Rick. "I think people will still keep breaking the rules, people will always find a way to break the rules,” she added.
John Hinkley and Su Livingston say using electronic devices behind the wheel has gotten out of control.
“I think this is great, I’ve waited for this so long. I’m so glad we’re beyond the Click it or Ticket slogan and onto something that people seem to have no self-control over. I think this helps,” says Livingston.
She adds this new law will take time to enforce and for drivers to change behaviors, but that it could have beneficial long-term effects on the culture like how drinking and driving has evolved.
“Remember when people drank and drove, the laws that were enforced happened over time. Now there’s a whole new culture of taking a taxi, or an Uber, just not driving, and I think this is a start,” said Livingston.
As part of the new distracted driving law, drivers who can also get a $99 ticket for other types of distractions such as grooming, smoking, eating or reading if the activity interferes with safe driving and drivers are pulled over for another traffic offense.
Transit and emergency vehicle drivers are exempt. Drivers of commercial vehicles must follow federal laws.
Two-way radio, citizen band radio or amateur radio equipment are not included in the law.