The Evergreen State could become the never green for those caught talking, texting, tweeting or doing anything else in their car while driving.
According to a new law in Washington state that will go into effect Sunday, drivers who get caught using their phones or any other electronic device while in the driver’s seat, even if they aren’t moving, will be slapped with a hefty fine: $136 for the first offense and $235 for every time thereafter.
Washington is not the first state to ban cellphone use while driving but it has received wide acclaim for its actions thanks to a catching phrase coined to describe its latest efforts: driving while under the influence of electronics, or simply DUI-E.
The Pacific Northwest state actually banned talking and texting in 2007, according to the Spokane Spokesman-Review, becoming one of the first in the nation to make the act a ticketable offense. However, thanks to all the added capabilities of today’s smartphones, many motorists were able to skirt the law by claiming to use their devices for things other than direct communication—a bogus defense, no doubt, but one that appears to have had traction in court.
To reclaim its spot ahead of the curve, Washington has broadened the definitions of the law, making it explicitly illegal to use an electronic device that requires the use of more than one touch of a finger. This also applies to tablets, laptops, games and any other piece of hand-held electronica.
Another law in Washington prohibits acts such as eating, reading, putting on makeup or doing anything else that isn’t related to driving while behind the wheel of a car but that $90 offense is a secondary offense, meaning if someone is stopped for something else or involved in an accident and a police officer finds out they were doing one of those things, a ticket can be issued. DUI-E, on the other hand, is a primary offense, meaning a cop can pull someone over if they see them fiddling with their phone.
Seeing as other states followed Washington’s lead the first time around, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more DUI-E laws pop up around the country.
For its part, New York’s 2013 law prohibiting cellphone use while driving is interpreted quite liberally, according to nytrafficticket.com, meaning even just holding a phone while not parked could result in a ticket and points on one’s license.
Should a rash of DUI-E regulations spread across the U.S., it will be interesting to see how autonomous vehicles will be governed by them. After all, automakers are advertising these cars as offering the freedom for driver’s to do other things other than look at the road, and what could be more alluring to a driver’s eyes than the soft glow of an iPhone stocked with a fresh selection of notifications?
Tags: auto news
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