State law prohibits the use of all electronic gadgets, such as cellphones, tablets, laptop computers and personal gaming systems, while behind the wheel — including at a stop sign or red-light signal.
Washington State Patrol and local law-enforcement officers have deployed across the state as part of a national emphasis to crack down on distracted driving.
The effort began Monday and extends through April 14.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration provided grants to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission to fund overtime shifts dedicated specifically to enforcing Washington’s newly implemented distracted-driving law.
April is one of four months in Washington the commission focuses on safe driving; there are campaigns in August and December targeting driving under the influence of alcohol, and a campaign in May promoting the use of seat belts.
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“Now is a time where, if you’re still using your cellphone, we’re hoping you’ll take this particular emphasis time to change that habit and learn to turn it off and put it away while you’re driving,” said Shelly Baldwin, legislative and media-relations manager for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “If extra enforcement is what it takes to get you to change that behavior, that’s what we’ll do.”
The state Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act prohibits the use of electronic gadgets such as cellphones, tablets, laptop computers and personal gaming devices while behind the wheel — including at a stop sign or red-light signal.
A fine on the first offense is $136 and increases to $234 for a second offense within five years.
Officers have issued about 1,500 tickets each month to drivers since the law went into effect in July. The grace period, during which some officers issued warnings instead of tickets to boost awareness for the law, ended in January.
Ongoing educational efforts, which Baldwin said the agency provides through advertising and other paid media, are coupled with enforcement.
The commission gathers enforcement data every two months. Baldwin said the agency plans to compare rates of distracted driving before and after the two-week campaign and release results this summer.