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Washington State’s new and improved distracted driving law


Back in 2008, Washington legislators passed one of the earliest state laws regulating drivers’ cell phone use.

“A person operating a moving motor vehicle while holding a wireless communications device to his or her ear is guilty of a traffic infraction.”

In 2015, distracted driving was blamed for 171 traffic deaths. That is almost one-third of all traffic fatalities in Washington. This figure may be low, as drivers often do not admit using their cellphones after a crash.

Earlier this year, Washington state lawmakers proposed a bill to would strengthen and clarify the existing distracted driving law.

“We need to stigmatize driving while under the influence of electronics”

Washington State Representative Jessyn Farrell

And on May 16, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee signed that bill into law. He was surrounded by legislators and family members of victims of distracted driving.


Here’s what’s changed.

Current Law

  • No sending, reading or writing text messages while driving
  • No holding the phone to your ear
  • $124 fine
  • Violations do not affect driving record, are not reported to car insurance company
  • In effect until July 23 2017

New Law

  • No “personal electronic device” use at all, including at stop lights
  • Fine goes up to $235 for second offense
  • Violations become part of driving record
  • Violations are reported to car insurance company
  • Distraction as a secondary offense can carry additional $30 fine
  • Goes into effect on July 23, 2017



Too many lives are lost or forever changed because drivers simply aren’t paying attention.

I am are proud of Washington State for taking the lead in confronting distracted driving.


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  1. Shari Rosner says:
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    Is it also illegal to use a map app on a smart phone for navigating to a destination? If the phone is not held is it legal for a pre-set navigation program to be running with Siri-type voice giving directions?

    Thank you.

  2. Coluccio Law says:
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    Hi Shari,

    Under the new law, drivers can employ “minimal use of a finger” for device activation.

    A driver should be able set a destination and follow voice directions, or, mount the device on the dashboard for a map.

    Drive safe!

  3. Ray says:
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    So its ok for police to talk,on a phone,tap on a laptop and drive,,so this law wont hold,in court. You cant enforce a law that isnt abided by with law enforcement. I realize its not safe to drive and use electronics but that goes for all,drivers.