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Washington's New Strict Distracted Driving Law Cites Drivers for Any Handheld Use While On the Road

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 29, 2017 | 0 Comments

The year of 2017 has been a year of change for Washington in regard to DUI and distracted driver reform policies. Earlier this month, the state enacted a stricter law that would ensure that repeat drunk driving offenders acquire a felony by the time they receive their fourth conviction, as opposed to a fifth conviction under the previous law. Now, new legislation concerning distracted motorists and the use of cellular devices while driving has been passed and signed into law by Washington's Governor, Jay Inslee.

The law, known as SB 5289, serves as a stricter revision of the state's already existing ban on texting while driving and holding a cellular device to the ear while driving. Instead of citing drivers for these sole acts, all handheld uses of a cell phone will be considered a primary offense. Therefore, talking, texting, browsing the internet, taking pictures or even just holding the phone in hand while driving or stopped at a light will be forbidden by the new law. Under this legislation, a driver will only be able to use one finger to activate, deactivate or sign off on their phone, but any other violation of the law will result in a $135 ticket for the first time and a $235 ticket for the second time. Legislators suggest using hands-free devices like Bluetooth in order to use a cell phone while on the road.

Governor Inslee claims he signed the law because he noticed an increase in fatal auto collisions involving distracted drivers. A Spokane Valley woman named Lavera Wade, sat gleefully next to him while he signed the bill. She lost her grandson, Sam Thompson just a few days shy of his 21st birthday in a deadly accident caused by distracted driving. According to a recent article, he was driving south on U.S. 195 from his home when he looked down at his phone and sent a text to a friend. This simple gesture caused him to drift across the center line while coming around the curve, and he collided head-on with a semi. Authorities say Thompson was killed instantly. Since the young man's death, his family has been proactively seeking reform to the texting and driving law. They claimed it was too easy for drivers to say that they weren't texting to avoid a ticket. Now that the bill is passed, the family feels like they've done their duty to protect other people like their grandson who endanger their lives and the lives of others when they use their phones while driving.

“I have resigned myself that passing this bill is not going to bring Sam back, “Wade said. “To some degree, he'll live on in the accidents that don't happen.”

Governor Inslee has accelerated the legislation's effective date to July of this year, instead of the bill's original effective date, January 2019. Critics of the law claim that they foresee future issues surrounding a motorist's ability to alert the authorities while driving and other important matters.

If you have been arrested for a DUI or for distracted driving, call the Seattle law office of Steve Karimi at (206) 621-8777 or contact him online. An arrest does not guarantee a conviction

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.

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