WASHINGTON – Governor Jay Inslee signed a measure on Tuesday that bans holding electronic devices behind the wheel. The measure was originally set to go into effect in 2019, but Inslee vetoed that section of the law, saying it is too important to wait.
The new law will now go into effect in July.
Under the distracted driving law, drivers cannot have a phone in their hand behind the wheel. Not only does this mean no texting, it means no Facebook, no Snapchat and no email while you are behind the wheel.
Being on your phone while stopped at a red light does not count either. Now, if you want to do something on your phone, you have to actually pull off of the road and stop your vehicle.
There is one exemption written into the law which says the “minimal use of a finger” is still permitted. For example, silencing your phone when it rings or pushing the button for voice activated assistance to give you directions. These actions are allowed, provided they can be done without putting anyone in danger.
KREM 2’s Rob Harris wanted to get law enforcement’s take on the new law. Officials almost universally supported the law because they often get a firsthand look at the devastation that can be caused by distracted driving. However, they added these laws can be very hard to enforce.
Law enforcement officials said it is difficult to catch people in the act and difficult to determine for sure that their phones were the cause.
Despite the difficulty, Washington State Patrol Trooper Jeff Sevigney said he is grateful to see distracted driving laws strengthened.
“It can be difficult to detect people that are texting, but bottom line is, those people are an extreme hazard on our roadways and we’ll do what it takes to make sure those people don’t cause collision that involve you, your family or mine. That’s our mission,” said Sevigney.
Sevigney understands it can be difficult to avoid checking your phone after you hear a call or text tone go off. He recommends putting your phone in the trunk where you cannot reach it. This quick tip could save you a $130 ticket or possibly much worse.