Washington State Distracted Driving Law Taking Effect in July

The bill making use of a mobile phone while driving a primary offense exempts a driver who is using a personal electronic device to contact emergency services and also someone operating an authorized emergency vehicle.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee signed three bills into law on May 16 that aim to reduce distracted driving and impaired driving.

The bills make any use of a mobile phone while driving a primary offense, make an individual driver's fourth DUI a felony, and implement recommendations from a task force on impaired driving. Inslee's signature means the distracted driving law goes into effect in July 2017.

"We're suffering a scourge of death of our loved ones on our roadways, due to two problems: distracted driving and impaired driving," he said. "Today I'm signing three bills to confront these scourges head on."

Inslee mentioned at the signing ceremony in Tacoma the case of Sam Thompson, a junior at Lewis and Clark College who was killed one week before his 21st birthday when he crashed while sending a text. Lavera Wade, his grandmother, attended the ceremony; she had worked with other victims' families to see the law passed, according to Inslee's news release.

The bill making use of a mobile phone while driving a primary offense is SB 5289. It exempts a driver who is using a personal electronic device to contact emergency services; the use of a system by a transit system employee for time-sensitive relay communication between the transit system employee and the transit system's dispatch services; an individual employed as a commercial motor vehicle driver who uses a personal electronic device within the scope of his or her employment if such use is permitted under 49 U.S.C. Sec. 31136 as it existed on the effective date of the law; and a person operating an authorized emergency vehicle.

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