On May 16, Governor Jay Inslee signed a new, tougher statewide distracted driving law. Originally, it was to go into effect in 2019; however, Inslee vetoed that portion of the bill saying it was too important to wait, and it will now take effect this coming July.
The current driving law in Washington state only prohibits texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving. This new law bans drivers from holding a electronic device while driving — which includes holding onto or using a device while stopped at a traffic light.
The law is aimed at preventing people from doing more than just talking on the phone — it would prevent people from performing activities like checking email, texting or playing a game. The law moves those activities into a new category. This means that texting or other use of an electronic device while driving will count as a moving violation, just like speeding or reckless driving.
Under the new measure, “the minimal use of a finger” to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of a personal electronic device while driving will still be allowed.
The law does not apply to drivers in very specific circumstances such as when someone is making a 911 call, transit workers communicating with dispatch, semi-truck drivers using radios or emergency responders — like firefighters communicating via radio.