Distracted driving is an ongoing problem that has yet to be resolved. It is a step in the right direction that it is illegal in most states, but this dangerous act is still happening every second on our roadways.
If you have been the victim of a crash involving a distracted driver, Davis Law Group can help. For a free legal consultation, call (206) 727-4000.
Washington State's Distracted Driving Law
On July 23, 2017, a new distracted driving law went into effect in Washington state, making it illegal to even hold an electronic device while behind the wheel. Drivers are only allowed “minimal use” of a finger on their device if it’s a quick tap to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function. This means that you can still use your cell phone to play music or check GPS directions, but your phone must be at your side or in a dashboard cradle, not in your hand.
The penalty for violating the distracted driving law — referred to as an E-DUI — is a primary offense, which allows state and local police to issue tickets to drivers based solely on the officer's observation of text messaging or illegal cell phone use. The fine for a first offense is $136; subsequent fines rise to $235. Insurance companies are allowed to treat citations under this new law as moving violations, and can raise offenders’ rates.
Washington state gave drivers a six-month grace period to adjust to the new law, with officers issuing primarily warnings to violators. In that six-month window, Washington State Patrol issued 6,475 warnings.
The laws are much tougher on semi-truck drivers. On January 26, 2010 a federal law went into effect that bans drivers of commercial vehicles from texting or using a cell phone while driving. Those who are caught violating this law are subject to a $2,750 fine.
RELATED: How does Washington stack up when it comes to distracted driving?
Federal Distracted Driving Laws
On January 26, 2010 a federal law went into effect that bans drivers of commercial vehicles in the United States from texting or using a cell phone while they are driving. Those who are caught violating this law are subject to a $2,750 fine.
The reality is that commercial vehicles are much larger than a standard motor vehicle, and therefore the risk of serious injury or death from an accident involving a commercial vehicle is much higher. The deadly nature of commercial vehicle accidents alone is enough justification for the severe punishment that accompanies federal distracted driving laws.
Types of Distracted Driving Accidents
It's estimated that roughly 25 percent of car accident fatalities are a result of distracted driving. Every year, about 3,500 people are killed and 392,000 are injured in car crashes involving distracted drivers. Here are the main causes:
- General distraction. The primary cause of these accidents is a driver's attention wandering away from the road.
- Cell phone use. The top electronic distraction for drivers is their cell phone.
- Another person, object or event. Looking at another driver or watching something along the road causes many accidents.
- Other occupants. Passengers in your vehicle that draw your attention away from the road can cause a collision.
- Reaching for a device. Even going for your cell phone can lead to accidents.
- Eating or drinking. Having a snack (or a full meal) behind the wheel is a bad idea.
- Changing radio or climate controls. These quick actions can be deadly.
- Adjusting controls. Even moving the seat, mirrors or seatbelt is dangerous.
- Moving objects. Objects such as pets can make you take your eyes off the road.
- Smoking. Only about 1 in a 100 accidents are related to lighting or smoking a cigarette.
Proving the Other Driver Was At-Fault
In order for you to recover financially from a distracted driving accident, your personal injury attorney must prove that the driver acted negligently.
Here are the different ways possible to prove a driver was engaging in a type of distracted driving:
- The driver admits it. This rarely happens, as drivers are not advised by their lawyer to admit fault immediately after an accident.
- Witness testimony. In some cases, bystanders or other drivers will provide police with a statement of what they saw. If another driver noticed the causing driver using their cell phone or engaging in another type of distracted driving behavior, this would greatly help your case.
- Cell phone records. Text and call records can be used as evidence that the driver was using their cell phone when the accident occurred. Some people have attempted to forge or withhold cell phone records because it proves they were at fault.
- Video evidence. Cameras are everywhere, including street signs, traffic signals, police dashboards, etc. If video evidence shows that the driver was distracted, it could prove negligence in your case.
The Facts About Distracted Driving Accidents
￼The following statistics and information are designed to give you an idea of how prevalent and dangerous distracted driving is:
- 85 percent of drivers are distracted by the phone while driving
- For every 6 seconds of drive time, a driver sending or receiving a text message spends 4.6 of those seconds with their eyes off the road
- Drivers are on their phone for 1 out of every 6 minutes while driving
- 71 percent of drivers are texting while driving
- Studies have shown that texting while driving can double a driver's reaction time
- A driver of a vehicle dialing a cell phone is 2.8 times more likely to get into an accident than a non-distracted driver
- 74 percent of all drivers say they support a ban on hand-held cell phone use, and 94 percent would support a ban of texting while driving
- A driver talking on the phone is 1.3 times more likely to get into an accident
- A driver reaching for a cell phone or any other electronic device is 1.4 times more likely to be in an accident
- A texting driver is just as impaired as a driver who has consumed four alcoholic beverages
- Satellite navigation systems cause car accidents at a rate higher than texting and driving
10 Tips to Avoid Distractions While Driving
- In general, you know what distracts you. Avoid any of these activities.
- Turn cell phone off before getting behind the wheel.
- If you need to make a call, pull over.
- Do not text, read email or play with your phone apps while driving.
- Program your GPS or read directions before you leave.
- Set up a specialized message to tell callers that you are driving and that you will get back to them as soon as possible.
- Secure pets before you drive.
- Do not argue or have serious conversations with passengers while driving.
- Ask a passenger to make a call for you if the call can’t wait.
- Become familiar with the state and local laws before you get in the car.
Is Driving With a Pet on Your Lap 'Distracted Driving?'
It’s not unusual to be driving down the road and see someone’s small dog sticking their head out the driver’s side window. In Washington state, it is illegal to drive with your pet on your lap while driving, or on the vehicle’s dashboard.
“Because you can’t predict the actions of the animal, it could be a sudden hazard,” a Washington State trooper said regarding this issue. “It’s negligence to have a live animal that could distract the driver.”
In Washington state, it is not specifically illegal to just have your pet in the car, but certain actions are covered by the second-degree negligent driving law – the same law that covers distracted driving. According to news reports, the fine for driving with a dog or cat on your lap is $550. However, if the animal is in a carrier and not a distraction to the driver, it will not result in a fine because the animal is not a threat to the driver.
Free Distracted Driving Accident Legal Consultation
If you were injured in a crash caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to financial compensation for your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. Our Seattle car accident attorneys are standing by to review your personal injury case free of charge.
Call Davis Law Group at (206) 727-4000 or use the confidential contact form on this page to have your case reviewed absolutely free. We will help you better understand your legal rights and options and schedule you for a free legal consultation if we believe we can help improve the value of your case.