Washington State's laws on distracted driving - more than the cost of the fine

Many auto accidents in Bellingham, Washington and Whatcom County happen because of distracted driving. Distracted driving is not limited to actively texting or using an electronic device, but includes talking on a phone, or any activity that takes a driver’s attention from the act of driving. According to Distraction.Gov, at any given moment during daylight hours, over 660,000 vehicles are being driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. If you find yourself doing any of the following while driving, you are potentially breaking the law: adjusting the radio, rubbernecking, applying makeup, talking to passengers and perhaps the worst one of all, using a cell phone while driving. Cell phone usage is the activity most associated with distracted driving, and tends to be the most dangerous. The reason is that cell phones distract the driver on three levels; cognitively: as your mind is focused on the conversation, visually: when your eyes are off the road, and manually: since at least one hand is off the steering wheel.

Washington State Cell Phone Laws

Washington’s policy is a strict one when it comes to cell phone use while behind the wheel. The laws became less forgiving in 2010, from a more lenient set of rules that became law in 2008. Now, it is a “primary offense” to use your phone while driving, which means that you could be pulled over only for that if an officer sees you. Before, you could be fined extra for distracted driving if you were pulled over for something else, i.e. speeding or having expired registration, etc. For more information, you can read Senate bill 6345

There are exceptions to this law. Cell phones can be used in  authorized emergency vehicles, tow trucks responding to a disabled vehicle, and a driver using a device in hands free-mode. There is also an exception for emergency situations when the driver is reporting illegal activity, summoning emergency help, or attempting to prevent injury to a person or property.

If you have a drivers permit, or an intermediate license, you’re completely banned from cell phone usage of any kind while driving unless it is for an emergency situation such as reporting illegal activity, summoning emergency help, or attempting to prevent injury to a person or property.

So what is the cost if you are caught illegally using a cell phone while driving? The fine is $124. While the infraction doesn’t go on your driving record, that’s still money you don’t want to spend. And the cost of an accident caused by distracted driving? It is incalculable. To learn more about the fines you would face, follow this link to the Washington State Department of Licensing page about distracted driving.

If you are the victim of an accident caused or possibly caused by a distracted driver, you will need an experienced, skilled attorney to guide you through the process of financial recovery. Bill Coats has this experience. To find out more about his practice and how he could help, please contact him for a free consultation.

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