New Laws Going into Affect in Washington State

The biggest recent change in Washington’s traffic laws is the new Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) Act which bans all use of handheld electronic devices by drivers in the state. On May 16, Governor Lee Inslee signed the Act into law. He also signed off on a new DUI penalty and recommendations on dealing with impaired driving.

The law took effect July 23, in spite of a brief attempt to delay implementation until 2019. Drivers are now forbidden to use smartphones, tablets, laptops, and gaming devices while driving. The bill’s sponsor is Senator Ann Rivers (R – La River) had originally proposed an effective date of January 1, 2018. She later agreed to delay implementation by a year. Governor Jay Inslee decided to accelerate implementation even relative to the original effective date.

Distracted driving remains a huge problem on Washington roads. A recent study suggested that approximately 10% of Washington drivers are using some sort of handheld device. That observational study raised the question of how much compliance could be expected. However, the state does have a good track record of using laws and public education to change driving behavior. Drunk driving arrests have plummeted. Compliance with the state’s seat belt law is very high, as much as 95% according to one study.

Now, the Act is a law and the state faces a couple of new challenges. State law enforcement officers have a new law to enforce, and the behavior they have to police is nearly universal. The state also needs to mount a public education campaign to ensure drivers know the law and the consequences of a violation. In related news, on the same day that Governor Inslee signed the DUIE Act into law, he also signed legislation making a fourth DUI offense a felony.

Distracted or impaired drivers kill or injured hundreds of people in Washington every year. If you believe your injury accident was caused by a distracted or impaired driver, please contact our car accident law office to discuss your case.