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Hand-held or not, distracted drivers are dangerous


Last updated 6/15/2017 at Noon

Drivers do it daily in Mukilteo. The same thing takes place daily in Edmonds. We can even see it right here in Mill Creek. In fact, it is almost common place to see motorists taking part in this activity every time you drive these days.

What are we talking about? It is the person behind the wheel looking at, or using a distracting hand-held electronic device.

Collectively, we have to wonder why these machines have so much control over us, especially since they are leading us to kill ourselves or to kill others. At the very least, the use of handheld electronic devices while driving is putting ourselves and other people in danger.

The Federal Highway Commission recently added this important finding: Drivers who use hands-free devices are equally distracted (and dangerous) as somebody with a hand-held device.

Our state legislators and our governor know this too. Therefore, since we apparently cannot control our impulsive behavior to look at our devices, our elected officials have put into place incentives, which hopefully will encourage us to put our electronic devices away and to keep our eyes on the public road.

The legislature intended to have the new rules become law in 2018. Gov. Inslee thought it was so important that he vetoed the rule as written and moved the start date up to July of this year.

These new laws can help us all become fortunetellers. Our forecast is that not only our Mill Creek finest--but all cities, counties and our state law enforcement officers--will be using a lot of ink writing tickets for any driver on a public roadway who uses any of these distracted driving devices.

Come mid-July, the strictest of any states laws against the use of an electronic device while driving will become the law in Washington. Once the statue takes effect, a person can be fined up to $136 for their first violation. The punishment does not end there. Distracted driving offenses will be reported to the appropriate insurance companies. That means an infraction for using a hand-held device will hurt your wallet for years to come.

With these new government sanctions in place, hopefully, drivers will fight our urge—make that our compulsion--to pick up one of these controlling mechanical devices. Those without self-control will have some big bucks to pay for your lack of self-discipline.

Of course, it is a given there are the few drivers who will not learn from their first punishment. The law was written so repeat violators will be forced to pay up to $235.

What are some of the important additions to our traffic laws? There are six key ingredients of our state’s new distracted driving law:

  • The law recognizes an “electronic device” as, but not limited to, a cell phone, tablet, laptop, two-way messaging device or electronic games.
  • Our current law is there to prevent people from just talking on a cellular phone. These new additions are added to prevent individuals from performing activities such as: checking emails, texting, tweeting, watching or playing a video game while driving.
  • The new law bars drivers from holding an electronic device while driving, which includes holding or using a device while stopped at a traffic light.
  • One can still use a finger “to activate, deactivate or initiate a function of the device.” This section is “apparently” there to mean hitting the sleep, or power off button.

Violations of the use of electronic devices while driving will count as a moving violation, just like a speeding or reckless driving tickets does. It is important to note that the driver’s insurance company will be notified of the violation.

Like most laws, there are exceptions and in this case the allowances are:

  • Making a 911 call or seeking emergency assistance
  • Transit workers communicating with dispatch
  • Semi-drivers using radios
  • Emergency responders who are communicating by a radio

The number of exceptions are sure to increase as drivers face the practical enforcement of the new law. But no matter what the law is or will be it is the wise driver who holds off from holding or looking at any illegally used electronic apparatuses.

Darn right! All drivers should avoid the use any type of distractive device while on the roadways. As drivers, we all must always be vigil regarding what is happening around us!


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