There have been an increasing amount of cell phone laws being passed in the last decade or so due to a shift in how we interact with technology on a daily basis. One of these new laws has just been passed by Washington state. The law targets “distracted driving,” and prohibits drivers from holding things (i.e. gaming devices, GPS and especially cell phones) while driving or stopped at a red light, which is now a primary offense.
Other causes of distracted driving such as eating or grooming can get you pulled over as a secondary offense under this law (you won’t get pulled over for it, but if you’re eating a bagel while driving and you make a risky lane change, you could get slapped with this additional fine). This law, at first mention, sounds sensible enough – but how does it affect you?
“Distracted driving” has been slightly controversial for risk of infringing on a motorist’s rights; however, this new law prohibits devices from being used even at a stoplight. In short, to have access to any device while driving it will have to be hands-free throughout the duration of the journey, with a slight exception for the “minimal use of a finger to activate a device,” as stated by the law.
First and foremost, cops are looking for erratic driving. Swerving, irresponsible lane changes, speeding and generally irregular driving. Next, they are looking for cell phones. Under the chin, tucked in the nook between your shoulder and cheek or held up to your ear with your hand – these will all land you a fine under the new law. The officer must see you clearly holding your cell phone while driving to issue the $136 (for the first offense) fine.
Even if an officer spots you texting while driving, they are not to check your phone without sufficient cause. Also, as with any other type of moving violation, you have every right to fight the ticket with legal representation in court. If you can submit sufficient reasoning or evidence that you were not on your cell phone, or you were using it within the restrictions of this new law, the fine will be lifted.
In short, the new law cracks down on cell phone use while driving or stopped at a stop sign or red light. Stick to hands-free operation or bluetooth and drive responsibly to steer clear of that hefty ticket.