In May of 2017, a male teen died when his car veered out of his lane into a dump truck in Newport, a city about an hour north of Spokane. Officially, the cause was listed as “inattention” but witnesses say it looked like he was on his cell phone.
He drove up on a line of cars stopped for a school bus and couldn’t stop in time and had to veer across the centerline where he hit an oncoming dump truck. Two other kids in the car were taken to the hospital with serious injuries.
New Cell Phone Law in Washington
This scene is played out all over in cities and counties all over the state and the country. In Washington State, the legislature passed the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act which made holding a cell phone while driving a violation with a fine of $136 for a first offense and $234 for a second.
It doesn’t matter if the driver is actually texting or calling, but just holding the phone can get him or her a ticket. The law does allow the driver to use a cell phone hands free, and a single swipe is allowed to activate the phone.
Other Distracted Driving Prohibited
Distracted driving causes around 4,000 deaths each year, and around 35 percent of these are from cell phone use. This means that around 2,500 deaths are caused by other types of distraction. The new anti-cell phone law also prohibits other distracted driving activities that had not been addressed. Eating, shaving, putting on makeup were specifically mentioned as prohibited activities and can get the driver a $99 ticket for each offense.
Distracted Driving Accidents
Because of the slow reaction time to stopped cars or other danger, distracted driving causes accidents and injuries. When this happens, the law allows the injured victim to sue the driver for injuries and other damages. To make a case for compensation, the victim doesn’t rely on the new distracted driving law, but had to show that the driver was negligent.
The conduct of the driver is looked at and compared to what a reasonably prudent person would do under the same circumstances. If the jury feels that engaging in cell phone use wasn’t reasonable and prudent, then he or she could be found negligent and have to pay for the damages.