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Grace period ends for new distracted driving law

Washington residents should know not to use their phones while driving by now, according to law enforcement. For the past six months, Washington State Patrol has given warnings to drivers who use personal devices on the road, but this grace period is now over.

In the spring of 2017, Washington lawmakers passed new rules regarding distracted driving. This law (RCW 46.61.672) restricts the use of electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle among prohibiting other diversions. Laptops, phones, gaming systems and even GPS devices fall under this legislation.

The law defines "use" as either holding the device in your hand or using your fingers to perform actions on the screen. The definition also includes watching videos. All of these activities can distract drivers from the road cognitively, physically and visually. The restrictions still apply at red lights and stop signs.

However, the law does allow drivers to interact with devices as little as possible to turn functions on and off, such as dismissing an alarm to return to navigation display.

Drivers can keep themselves from being distracted behind the wheel by taking precautions, including:

  • Setting destinations in the GPS while safely parked
  • Choosing music before entering roadways
  • Avoiding checking texts at red lights
  • Turning phones to "do not disturb" or airplane mode
  • Mounting necessary devices for navigation on the dashboard

Now that the grace period has ended, the penalty for violating this law is a fine that doubles for a second offense. Ideally, this rule will decrease the amount of tragic injuries and fatalities from distracted driving.

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