SEATTLE — The new distracted driving law goes into effect on Sunday, July 23. It means drivers will no longer be able to use a cell phone or any electronic device while driving, even when stopped at a traffic light.
Deaths from distracted driving went up by 32% from 2014 to 2015.
“Put the cell phones down, preserve life,” Gov. Jay Inslee said on the steps of the Capitol in Olympia.
Tina Meyer, whose son Cody was killed in May 2015 by a driver on a cell phone, has made this “On the Road, Off the Phone” campaign her mission.
“The world will never know the joy that Cody brought others because he’s not here anymore, because of a cell phone,” said Meyer.
Washington State Patrol troopers used a simulator demonstrating what distracted driving feels like.
“Looking down and seeing your phone then looking up and seeing all these things happen in front of you, you don’t have time to react,” said Trooper Cody Fath, who demonstrated the simulator.
Inslee says the bill is called "electronic driving while impaired" for a reason.
“When 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,” said Inslee.
Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste says troopers will give out warnings for the first few months before tickets get written.
The first citation will cost drivers $136. A second citation within five years of the first one will increase to $236.
Inslee says he expects this law to be as successful as the “click it, or ticket” seatbelt law that now has 95% compliance in the state.
“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,” said Inslee.
Meyer says nothing will bring her son Cody back, but this law is one way he’s still making a difference.
With the new law, drivers can also get a $99 ticket for other types of distractions like grooming, smoking, eating or reading if it interferes with safe driving and you are pulled over for another traffic offense.