Drivers still don’t understand Washington’s E-DUI law as it reaches its first year

SEATTLE  – It's been one year since Washington's Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (E-DUI) law was signed, but many drivers still don't fully understand the law, according to a new survey.

The King County Target Zero Task Force wanted to learn how well motorists understood and adhered to the E-DUI law, which law enforcement agencies began enforcing in January. They found:

  • 41% did not know it is illegal to use a cell phone camera while stopped at an intersection
  • 35% did not know it is illegal to read a text message while stopped at an intersection
  • 25% did not know it is illegal to talk on a hand-held cell phone while stopped at an intersection
  • 26% did not know it is illegal to type a text message while they were stopped at an intersection
  • 35% did not know it is illegal to type an address into their GPS while driving
  • 29% did not know it is illegal to hold a cell phone to talk on a speaker mode while driving
  • 43% did not know it is legal to call 9-1-1 while driving

The survey also revealed that while drivers in King County acknowledge that using a phone while driving is dangerous and understand it’s illegal, many are still reluctant to put their phone away.

More than 70 percent of the 900 King County drivers surveyed viewed texting or emailing by others while driving as a very serious personal threat. However, 75 percent of drivers believe it’s very unlikely that they will crash their vehicle by texting while driving.

“Our goal is to make putting your phone away as common as putting your seatbelt on,” says Sergeant Robb Kramp of the Mercer Island Police Department. “One out of four crashes involve cell phone use just prior to the crash, but if we all commit to focusing on driving and not our phones, we can save lives in our community.”

Under the E-DUI law, drivers may not hold cell phones or watch videos while they are driving, stopped in traffic, or at a stop light. The law restricts hands-free use to a single touch.

The first E-DUI ticket costs drivers $136. If the driver receives a second ticket within five years, the fine increases to $234.

Law enforcement agencies in King County are running extra patrols from July 23 to July 29 to look out for distracted drivers and increase the safety of King County’s roadways.