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Driving While Using a Cell Phone Is Distracted Driving

Driving while using a cell phone is distracted driving and against the law in Washington. Last year, Washington passed a law making it illegal to use a cell phone and other distractions while driving. In fact, even using your cell phone at a stop light or stopped in traffic is now illegal. If you use your cell phone while driving then you are guilty of a traffic infraction and will be required to pay a fine.  You may only use your cell phone when making a call to emergency services, the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate or imitate a function on the device, and other limited circumstances found in the RCW 46.61.672 below.

You are not permitted to use either hand or both hands to operate your cell phone or electronic device to text, make calls, compose and send emails, browse information, watch videos, etc.  If you drive dangerously while using a cell phone you may have additional fines and penalties imposed on you.

The Rule of the Road for Washington regarding use of cell phones is as follows:

RCW 46.61.672: Using a personal electronic device while driving.

(1) 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).

(2) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to:

(a) A driver who is using a personal electronic device to contact emergency services;

(b) The use of a system by a transit system employee for time-sensitive relay communication between the transit system employee and the transit system's dispatch services;

(c) An individual employed as a commercial motor vehicle driver who uses a personal electronic device within the scope of such individual's employment if such use is permitted under 49 U.S.C. Sec. 31136 as it existed on July 23, 2017; and

(d) A person operating an authorized emergency vehicle.

(3) The state preempts the field of regulating the use of personal electronic devices in motor vehicles while driving, and this section supersedes any local laws, ordinances, orders, rules, or regulations enacted by any political subdivision or municipality to regulate the use of a personal electronic device by the operator of a motor vehicle.

(4) A second or subsequent offense under this section is subject to two times the penalty amount under RCW 46.63.110.

(5) For purposes of this section:

(a) "Driving" means to operate a motor vehicle on a public highway, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, 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.

(b) "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.

(c) "Use" or "uses" means:

(i) Holding a personal electronic device in either hand or both hands;

(ii) 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; however, this does not preclude the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device;

(iii) Watching video on a personal electronic device.

RCW 46.61.673: Dangerously distracted driving.

(1)(a) It is a traffic infraction to drive dangerously distracted. Any driver who commits this infraction must be assessed a base penalty of thirty dollars.

(b) 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.

(c) 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.

(2) The additional monetary penalty imposed under this section must be deposited into the distracted driving prevention account created in subsection (3) of this section.

(3) The distracted driving prevention account is created in the state treasury. All receipts from the base penalty in subsection (1) of this section must be deposited into the account. Moneys in the account may be spent only after appropriation. Expenditures from the account may be used only to support programs dedicated to reducing distracted driving and improving driver education on distracted driving.

Injured in a Car Accident?

If you have been injured in a car accident due to another person’s distracted driving, then you need a personal injury attorney on your side.  The experienced attorneys at Parke Gordon Law Firm offers a free case review to discuss your case.  Call 509-582-7274 today for a free consultation.

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