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What drivers can and cannot do under Washington state’s new distracted driving law

The law forbids virtually all use of handheld gadgets such as phones, tablets, laptop computers and gaming devices while driving. The law takes effect July 23, 2017.


  • Q. When does the law take effect?
  • A. July 23.


  • Q. What will be banned?
  • A. Texting is already illegal, as is holding a cellphone at the ear. Drivers constantly flout those rules, or evade them by holding a phone between the legs, or just below the chin.
    The new law forbids handheld uses, including composing or reading any kind of message, picture or data. Photography while driving is illegal.
    Drivers also cannot use handheld devices while at a stop sign or red-light signal.


  • Q. What is still legal?
  • A. Drivers may still use a smartphone mounted in a dashboard cradle, for instance, to use a navigation app, but not to watch video. The new law permits “minimal use of a finger” to activate an app or device.
    Built-in electronic systems, such as hands-free calling and maps, remain legal.
    Handheld devices may be used if the driver has pulled off the roadway or traffic lanes, where the vehicle “can safely remain stationary.”


  • Q. What are the penalties?
  • A. The standard traffic fine of $136 would double to $235 on the second distracted driving citation.


  • Q. Is DUIE a primary offense?
  • A. Yes. A police officer can pull someone over just for using a handheld device.


  • Q. Will a ticket raise my insurance rates?
  • A. Probably.


  • Q. What about other kinds of distractions?
  • A. Miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating will be a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law-enforcement officer pulls you over for some other offense, such as speeding or a dangerous lane change. The penalty will be an extra $30.