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What is the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act?

Legislators in Washington have been working to make the roads safer, and you may be aware that a new distracted driving law is on the books now. According to the Seattle Times, this law is the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act, and it makes holding an electronic device while driving illegal.

If a law enforcement officer sees you holding a device, he or she can pull you over without any other reason. Devices include the following:

  • Smartphones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Gaming devices

A driver can still legally use a CB radio or other amateur radio equipment, and you can also still use your vehicle’s onboard systems such as hands-free calling or GPS. If your device is in a cradle on the dash, you can use it for GPS, but your physical interactions with it must be minimal. You could get a ticket for using your phone or other device at a traffic light or stop sign, as well. 

Driver distractions are not limited to electronic devices, and the law does not stop there, either. According to statistics, 171 of the 568 traffic fatalities in Washington during 2015 were distraction related, but did not all involve electronics. If you get pulled over for speeding or some other traffic infraction and you are eating or engaged in some other form of distraction, a penalty will be added to your citation. However, an officer cannot pull you over for holding your cup of coffee as you drive.

The governor has moved quickly to enact the DUIE law because state observation teams discovered that at any time in the state, almost one of every 10 drivers are holding a cellphone or other device. There is concern that the state does not have enough officers available to enforce the law. If true, this would lessen the likelihood of success at reducing distracted driving crashes. However, the stiff fines for the offense may be enough to deter many. This information is provided to educate you on the new law. However, it should not be considered legal advice.