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New distracted driving law goes into effect

Washington - If you were on the road today, “On the road, off the phone” alert signs were hard to miss.

Whether you're on the freeway or cruising downtown; if you're driving in Washington you need to be off the phone.

This new distracted driving law has been called an important milestone in the journey to Target Zero.

Last year alone 156 of the 537 roadway deaths in Washington were blamed on distractions of various kinds. That's more than one fourth.

Drivers we spoke with today didn't seem to have a problem with the changes.

Catherine Cassidy said, “I think that's safer. I don't think its a good idea to be talking on your cell phone or texting while driving.”

But they did have some questions.

Rebecca Ballou asked, “I'd like to know exactly what is considered a distraction.”

Under the law it is now illegal to hold your cell phone while driving; even when you're stopped in traffic.

Talking on the phone, sending and reading texts messages, posting to social media or taking photos are included. If you're caught, it's a $136 ticket and could raise your insurance rates.

One of the most common questions we were asked about was what the law means by distractions like eating and grooming as a secondary offense.

“If I'm speeding and I get pulled over and I have my coffee in my hands what would be the consequences of that?” Catherine Cassidy asked.

If you were to be pulled over by for something like a dangerous lane change, and happened to be checking your makeup in the mirror or enjoying a snack, law enforcement can additionally write you a $99 ticket.

“That's going to be a hard habit to break, I don't think people are going to be following that rule,” Cassidy added.

Gregory Mitchell shared, “if i have to eat some food, I'm not going to be concerned for someone pulling me over for a tail light.”

There are some exceptions. You can make emergency calls.

Olivia Schneider asked, “what sort of devices or new technology are out there to meet drivers needs as well as the laws?”

A smart phone mounted on the dashboard can be used for things that require minimal use of a finger like a voice-activated call or navigation app. Determining excessive use is up to the discretion of the officer.

The law goes in to affect at different times throughout the state. In Spokane, and with the Washington State Troopers, there is a 6-month grace period.

During that time warnings will be issued and educational material passed out. In Colfax, the law has gone in to affect. and tickets are already being issued.


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