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Has distracted driving law made Washington's roads safer?

During this past summer, the state of Washington implemented a tougher distracted driving law. A recent newspaper analysis of the results of the law seems to indicate that the law has had only mixed results in improving safety on the state's highways and reducing the number of truck and car accidents.

Under the new law, a driver can be pulled over if an officer observes the driver holding any kind of electronic device at the wheel. The fines for other driving offenses can be increased if the driver is found to be distracted by other causes, such as eating or putting on makeup. The law went into effect soon than expected because the Governor vetoed a bill that would have provided a grace period before the law became fully effective.

An insurance company who was asked about the effect of the new law said that it cannot determine with certainty that the law is saving lives on state roads. Incidents of distracted driving, like incidents of speeding, must be reported to insurance companies, but such reports occur only before a deadly crash. According to the Washington Traffic Study Commission, distracted driving deaths are becoming more frequent. When the insurance company polled its drivers about their distracted driving habits, about half of the respondents admitted to driving and texting only when they felt safe doing so. Some analysts believe that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk.

Anyone charged with a violation of the new distracted driving law may wish to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney for advice on the weight of the evidence and possible defenses. Given the newness of the law, obtaining a favorable plea bargain is also a possibility.

Source:, "Is Washington's distracted driving law making a difference?," Alyssa Warner, Dec. 3, 2017

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