Washington's New Law

Posted Thursday, August 31, 2017 by Ed Harper

Driving while Distracted and Using a Personal Electronic Device

Serious accidents stemming from distracted driving are on the rise in Washington. Specifically, distracted driving fatalities increased by 32% from 2014 to 2015, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. In response, our state government has attempted to add more laws in an effort to deter this problem. Recently, in July 2017 Washington added a new section to Washington’s driving laws.

The ramifications are twofold: first, the new laws prohibits a person from using a personal electronic device while driving a motor vehicle; and, additionally it is now illegal for a person to drive while dangerously distracted.Regarding the use of cell phones - defined as a “personal electronic device” means any portable electronic device capable of wireless communication or electronic data retrieval…This includes a cell phone, tablet, laptop, two-way messaging device, or electronic game.

The definition of “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…However one can use a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device; watching a video on a personal electronic device is also illegal.

Dangerously distracted has been defined as when 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 their motor vehicle on the highway. Enforcement of this section is a secondary offense or action when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for suspected violation of a separate traffic infraction or equivalent local ordinance.

What do these new laws mean? The new laws as enacted provide the law enforcement officers more power, more weapons in their arsenal so to speak when they suspect someone from driving while distracted or using a personal electronic device. A hands-free set is necessary and should be utilized by all drivers.

The distracted driving restriction will allow the officers to encourage drivers from doing anything that’s harmful or attention getting which would deprive a driver from their full attention while on the road. For civil claims against other drivers, using the distracted driving statute can help, but in a manner that’s supportive of the standard negligence instructions. Examples such as failing to use reasonable care – the common definition for negligence, following too close, or driving too fast for conditions, all can be utilized with the new distracted driving law. The bottom line is a person must use reasonable care not to harm another person while driving.

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Harper Law PLLC
826 6th Street South, Suite 101, Kirkland, WA 98033-6740 US
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