It’s tempting to check social media while stuck in traffic, but that’s illegal now in Washington state. Tickets cost $136 for a first offense.
No more tweeting, Facebook glancing, Snapchatting and selfie-making are allowed behind the wheel for Monday’s morning commute, the first rush hour since Washington state’s new distracted driving law took effect.
You can’t even exploit the 9-year-old loophole anymore of holding the cellphone under your chin or against your shoulder rather than at the ear.
The “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics” law, which began Sunday, forbids nonemergency use of handheld devices, and watching video. That’s a primary offense and tickets cost $136, rising to $234 for each additional citation within five years.
The Washington State Patrol and some police departments plan a grace period where they mainly give warnings and hand out educational cards, while others including Redmond and the King County Sheriff’s Office plan to issue fines right away.
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State analysts make no guess as to how many drivers will be cited, but 39,000 citations a year were issued under the looser 2007 and 2010 laws.
Drivers may still turn on apps that require “minimal use of a finger,” including navigation maps, Bluetooth calling and voice-activated software — whether built into the dashboard, or through a smartphone in a dash-mounted cradle.
Non-electronic distractions, such as eating, grooming, or a pet on the lap, are secondary offenses. Scofflaws can be fined an extra $99 for those, when police see them commit another traffic offense.
Distractions of all kinds cause one-third of road deaths. Experiments have demonstrated how electronic devices occupy brain function, so peripheral vision and reaction times are comparable to driving drunk.