WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — On Friday, March 10th, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office and Bellingham Police Department will be conducting emphasis patrols for distracted drivers in north Bellingham.
The patrols will focus on drivers distracted by their cell phones according to an announcement from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, Target Zero Manager Carr Lanham today, March 6th.
90% of drivers avoid distracted driving. We need 100% of Washington drivers to stay focused. Together we can prevent thousands of car crashes this year. Washington Traffic Safety Commission (March 6, 2023)
According to RCW 46.61.672, drivers are prohibited from using a personal electronic device while operating a motor vehicle on a public highway, including when stopped in traffic or at a traffic light. Personal electronic devices aren’t just limited to cell phones, but also includes laptop, tablets, music devices, games, etc. A driver is only allowed the minimal use of a finger to activate, deactivate or initiate a function on the device.
However, drivers are allowed to use a phone if:
- It’s hands-free and can be started by using a single touch or swipe of a finger
- You are parked or stopped out of the flow of traffic and safely off the roadway
- While calling 911
The penalty for distracted driving is a $136 citation for the first offense. If you’re issued another citation within five years, the penalty raises to at least $234. Additionally, each offense is reported to your insurance companies.
Drivers can also be penalized for a secondary violation of dangerously distracted driving under RCW 46.61.673. Drivers can receive an additional $99 penalty for being dangerously distracted if a driver commits a traffic violation because they were distracted.