State’s legislatures started salivating over the new E-DUI laws going into effect in the state of Washington this week. Driving under the influence took on an expanded definition by adding electronic devices to the already established “under the influence” substances like beer, wine, other alcoholic drinks, certain medical prescriptions, illegal drugs, and common household/over the counter medicines.
“Put the cell phone down, preserve life,” Governor Jay Inslee said on the steps of the capitol in Olympia, Washington, according to Fox News. On July 18. 2017, calling the bill “electronic driving while impaired” Fox News further reports the Governor as saying “[w]hen you are driving with a cell phone, you are a more dangerous driver than if you are driving drunk with a .08 blood alcohol level.” The fine for this new law is $136.00, first offense, and $236.00, second offense within five years. While these initial costs may not stop drivers from using electronic devices – the added court costs and reporting this new DUI to your insurance company surely will.
Fox News reports Governor Inslee saying “he expects this law to be as successful as the ‘click it, or ticket’ seat belt law that now has 95 percent compliance in [Washington].”
This new law also provides for a $99.00 fine for “other” types of distracted driving. This can include grooming, smoking, eating, or reading if it interferes with safe driving and you are pulled over for another traffic offense. This is exactly how seat belt violations started, but within a few years, seat belt violations became a stand-alone charge and not dependent upon being pulled over for another traffic offense. I anticipate that the distracted driving based on grooming, smoking, etc. will also become a primary charge.
So, the young woman who has learned to drive with her knees so that she can use both hands for her eye makeup or Ted who feels the need to pluck his nose hairs during his idle driving time will not only face $99.00 fines but multiples of that fine in court costs and court time off from work.
Can self-driving cars get here soon enough and will that have any effect on the new E-DUI laws? The current belief is that your responsibility under the laws for vehicle operation will not diminish or end with computer aided driving.
Fox News quotes Governor Islee as saying, “There’s hardly anything we’ve done in the last several years at the state capitol to save more lives than this distracted driving law.” While this is a national/worldwide problem States, lawyers, and the courts should rejoice because, they are back in business again!