In today’s vlog, we’d like to revisit a topic we discussed in a previous blog, that being the new distracted driving law that went into effect on July 23, 2017. This law was heavily discussed both in the national media and by the public at large because of its stringent, and rather unique two-tiered system of distracted driving offense.
A TWO PRONGED ASSAULT ON DISTRACTED DRIVING
The new Washington state law now dictates that under no circumstances is any one to be using a hand held electronic device, or even be so much as holding a cell phone, GPS, or other such device while operating a motor vehicle. This law applies even if the driver is stopped at a red light, at an intersection or otherwise not actively operating a motor vehicle in actuality.
Barring “minimal use” hands free, or one push/one swipe operation where the driver is not compelled to look away from the road, any operation of a hand held electronic device will be prohibited by law and punishable by a $136 fine for the first offense and a $234 fine for the second. The infraction will also be reported to the driver’s insurance company and appear on the driver’s record.
A second tier of this groundbreaking legislation further dictates that should a primary offense such as an improper lane change, running a red light, failure to yield, or stop at a street sign, be objectively proven to have been caused by a distracted driving; which includes anything and everything that might remove a driver’s attention from the road whether it’s a cell phone, a pet, a sandwich, applying makeup, or even sipping a cup of coffee, this secondary offense will be subject to fines of up to an additional $99.00.
OBJECTORS FALL INTO THREE GENERAL GROUPS
Many people have objected to this sort of double dip of a law on several grounds. Once pared down, these objectors and their arguments fall into one of three primary categories.
- Category One represents a small but invariably vocal segment of the population that simply refuses to tolerate federal, state, or local authorities telling them what to do or not do, whether in or out of their car. Clearly this group’s objectives can never be allowed to occur. Cars are, quite simply, terribly dangerous objects and their operation and who is allowed to operate them must be properly regulated for the sake of maintaining public safety.
- Group Two consists of people who have by and large misinterpreted this particular law as a straightforward prohibition of any and all activities other than constant attention and focus on the road. These people are under the impression that they can be pulled over and ticketed for sipping their coffee while driving. While refraining from other activities may or may not be considered good driving practices, this understanding of the law is incorrect in that any such action that distracts one from the road must first lead to a primary infraction, like running a red light.
- Group Three consists of people who say police will use this as a pretext for increasing the number of people they pull over. This group could be considered a subset of the second group in that you have to first have committed an actual traffic offense for this statute to come into play and render eating or drinking behind the wheel illegal. Enjoying one’s first cup of coffee on the drive to work will remain perfectly legal so long as safe and responsible driving practices are maintained.
Carlin Was Right
The brilliant and dearly departed standup comedian George Carlin had a joke where he suggested that there are really only two kinds of drivers on the road in addition to the driver themselves:
There are people who are driving faster than the driver and these people are called maniacs, and people who are driving slower than the driver, and they’re called idiots.
Depending on your POV, driving can be a decidedly subjective activity, and everybody genuinely believes they’re a good driver, but as anyone who drives will tell you, there are very many bad drivers out there. Laws like this are quite simply necessary to ensure that everyone uses appropriate caution and reasonable judgment when they are behind the wheel.
This Law Will Save Lives
This law, both in its intent and its application, is a deterrent to make sure that people remain mindful behind the wheel, and keep their mind and their eyes and their hands focused on the act of driving, thus keeping us all safe by preventing traffic crashes like running red lights, going through stop signs and running into the backs of cars that are sitting directly in front of the driver.
The rates of serious accidents caused by distracted driving have risen sharply in recent years, and while this is primarily a “telephone” problem it is also a matter of perspective. At Wiener & Lambka we are wholly supportive of this law and the added safety it will bring to our roads.