Inslee Signs Tougher Distracted Driving and DUI Laws

Alongside families and victims of sometimes fatal collisions due to distracted and impaired drivers, Gov. Jay Inslee signed three bills in Tacoma Tuesday, aimed at reducing impaired and distracted driving on Washington’s roads.

The bills signed make any use of a mobile phone while driving a primary offense, make an individual’s fourth DUI a felony, and implement recommendations from a task-force on impaired driving.

The Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act prohibits any holding of a personal electronic device, watching video on such a device, or using a hand or finger to use the device’s features – other than to activate or deactivate a function.

Pushing a button with one finger to initiate hands-free calling is permitted, as is the use of citizens’ band or ham radios in vehicles.

Legislators voted to have the updates take effect in 2019. However, Gov. Jay Inslee chose to veto that part of the bill today. Now the new law will instead take effect July 23, as will most other laws created during the legislative session that ended April 23.

“We’re suffering a scourge of death of our loved ones on our roadways, due to two problems: distracted driving and impaired driving,” Inslee said. “Today I’m signing three bills to confront these scourges head-on.”

In his remarks, Inslee discussed the thousands of victims whose lives were cut short by distracted driving. One of those victims was Sam Thompson, a junior at Lewis and Clark College who was killed a week before his 21st birthday when he crashed while sending a text. Inslee was joined at the bill signing by Lavera Wade, Sam’s grandmother, who worked with other victims’ families in passing the legislation.

Inslee’s bill action puts the distracted driving law into effect in July.