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I know, I know. Your phone is just too interesting to put down, even when you’re steering a speeding box of metal and glass down a highway just feet from certain death. Unfortunately, drivers using their phones in their cars has become one of the most pressing public safety concerns, leading to tens of thousands of deaths each year. To help curb this deadly problem, Washington State has taken some bold steps to cut down on distracted drivers. Earlier this year, Washington introduced the “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act,” or E-DUI Act to make using one’s phone while driving a ticketable offense. Just this week, the grace period for the new law has ended, meaning thousands of drivers across the state will be fined for failing to put down their phones. Is this a necessary safety precaution or just another way for state governments to increase their revenue?
Despite months of publicity campaigns aimed at education the public about the new law, many drivers seemed to assume police were only kidding. In the last six months of 2017, Washington State Troopers issued well over 6,000 warnings for the new E-DUI law. As of January 23rd, the grace period has ended and those warnings have become tickets – and not cheap ones, either. The first offense carries a fine of $136, while a second offense within five years carries a fine of $294. Drivers are even prohibited from using their phones while stopped at red lights or stop signs.
There are some rather confusing-sounding caveats to the new law, however. Drivers can use an electronic device to make emergency calls or if it is mounted in a cradle attached to the dashboard or windshield. Some smartphone use is permitted if drivers can access functions with just one touch or swipe, such as to answer a call or start a navigation app. Will these exceptions make enforcement of Washington State’s E-DUI law difficult?