Saturday, 20 May 2017 00:00

Breakdown Of The Updated Cell Phone Use Law In Washington State.

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This new and updated law is making waves out there for both the positive and negative.  We are going to break down the law that was signed in a rush to create a safer driving environment for those of us in Washington State.  

Please keep in mind, the person writing this article (me) is no lawyer, nor judge etc... I am reading up the law and have my own opinion on it and may express some of this opinion as I go.  It is up to you the reader to verify any information that you feel is inaccurate, or seek legal counsel if you have to go to court on the issue.  You can also CLICK HERE TO READ THE LAW AS SIGNED 

So this law is actually not a new law, but it updates the current distracted driving law that allows users to use their cell phones as long as it was not up to your ear (on phone calls).  Texting and messaging was and is included as not allowed.  Cell phone use is a stoppable offense (meaning if an officer sees you on the phone they can pull you over and give you an infraction).

So let's break down the new changes 

1.  A person operating a motor vehicle shall not operate a personal electronic device while on a public highway (roadway) either by moving or stationary.  Exclusion - if pulled off the roadway to a safe shoulder.  Stop signs, stop lights, stuck in traffic are considered operating on the roadway and an offense. 

2.  Personal electronic device means "any portable electronic device that is capable of wireless communication or electronic data retrieval and is not manufactured primarily for hands-free use in a motor vehicle. "Personal electronic device" includes, but is not limited to, a cell phone, tablet, laptop, two-way messaging device, or electronic game. "Personal electronic device" does not include two-way radio, citizens band radio, or amateur radio equipment."

3.  Using your hand or finger to compose, send, read, view, access, browse, transmit, save, or retrieve email, text messages, instant messages, photographs, or other electronic data; however, this does not preclude the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device, Watching video on a personal electronic.

So there are some exceptions to what you are allowed to do and not get penalized. 

1 - 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

Now frankly I do not get that one, why would a transit employee need to use an electronic device (a phone) and be allowed to transport passengers and use an electronic device.  A radio microphone sure ... 

2 - Commercial Vehicle Operators who uses a personal electronic device within the scope of such individual's employment.  (sounds like for example UPS drivers looking at their address on devices, or truckers with their gps logging equipment). 

3.  A driver who is using a personal electronic device to contact emergency services.

4. A person operating an authorized emergency vehicle.

5.  Minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of the device.  This means you can use your finger to answer a call, activate hands-free calling, gps navigation, turn music on (but for the most part hands-free operations using a Bluetooth device). 

A second offense for DUIE can and will double in fine. 

My Opinion Time. 

If you got this far and you are still reading, just a small rant an opinion.  I am all for distraction-free driving.  I use voice activation and have for years, all routing through my vehicle stereo.  I have gone to several EMS conferences and even one as of this last winter and state and medical officials have said that these laws have increased injury and even death among not only teens but adults. 

A few years ago, I believe it was 2 years after the first cell phone law was put into play. At a medical conference, I spoke with the then director of Harborview Trauma Center.  She stated that the injuries from cell phone use had been on the steep increase by both teens and now more prevalent in adults.  The injuries were consistent with cell phones in the lap, and much much lower than eye level.  Injuries consistent with phones being in the seat, center console and other places.  These patterns showed that people were taking their eyes off the roadway even more due to hiding their use so that they would not be stopped. 

A recent EMS conference where the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission did a talk and presentation said that cell phone use among teens "was not the leading causes of accidents among teens".  The cause was a distraction from passengers.  Passengers talking, cell phone use and showing the driver items and playing with music.  

Take what you want from my opinion.  But I have always felt that the distracted driving laws have taken our eyes further off the roadway and are not effective.  Even with these changes, this will not change a person's habits.  In fact, I feel that they may make things more dangerous.  Technology some day may be more affordable for distraction-free driving, but we just are not there yet.  It has to be affordable for everyone and not the rich.  






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