One of the unfortunate perils of the age of mobile technology is the fact that we all can’t seem to put down our phones while we drive. While you might think that you’re a good enough driver to divide your attention between road and screen, the fact is that any type of distracted driving increases your chances of getting into an accident. Mobile phones have become the number one cause of distracted driving, prompting many states to draft new laws for the new year which are aimed at cracking down on any type of distracted driving. While these have been successfully implemented in many cases, some state governments are facing legal challenges due to the rather subjective nature of enforcing them. One state to enact new distracted driving laws for 2018 is Washington, where drivers could now face hefty fines for what lawmakers are calling the “Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act,” or E-DUI. But is borrowing the term “DUI” too serious for in-car phone use?
Judging from the differences in punishments between E-DUIs and good ol’ fashioned DUIs, yes. While a first DUI offense in Washington state can earn drivers up to a year in prison, a first E-DUI offense carries a $136 fine, while a second offense will cost drivers $234. The law has technically been in effect since July last year, but officers only issued warnings during a six-month grace period. That grace period just expired on January 1st, and now Washington drivers could find themselves pulled over and fined for using their phones while driving.
There are a few exceptions, of course. Drivers can still operate their phones or other devices if they are parked, out of the flow of traffic, or using their device to contact emergency services such as 911. The new law allows for hands-free devices such as earpieces and what it calls “minimal use of a finger” such as to unlock a phone or answer a call.
156 drivers are believed to have died in Washington in 2017 due to distracted driving. Could this new law save lives, or will drivers just get creative with their phone use?