Distracted driving, particularly smartphone use behind the wheel, is a major factor in many catastrophic auto accidents. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, 30% of fatal car accidents and 23% of serious accidents that occur in the state involve a distracted driver. In response, the state has established distracted driving laws that apply to all motorists.

By reviewing these regulations before their next car trip, motorists can take steps to avoid distractions and drive responsibly.

Know the law

Drivers may not hold a cellphone or electronic device while operating a motor vehicle. However, they may use a device with a Bluetooth hands-free headset to call emergency services when necessary or when parked in a safe area away from traffic.

Under Washington’s law, which the state passed in 2017, the minimum distracted driving ticket for a first offense is $136. The fine for a second offense within five years starts at $234. In addition, this type of violation may raise a driver’s insurance rate.

These laws also regulate other types of distracted driving beyond cellphone use. Washington drivers can receive a $99 ticket if an officer observes them reading, eating, smoking or grooming themselves behind the wheel.

Avoid an accident

To break the cellphone habit, drivers should stow their devices safely in the glove compartment or otherwise out of reach before they start the vehicle. They should make phone calls, answer emails, apply makeup and eat meals before they set off on their journey. If they need to use entertainment streaming or GPS navigation, they should set up these functions while they remain in their driveway.

Limiting passengers can also limit distractions, especially for new drivers. Keeping conversations light can help attention to remain on the road.

Drowsiness is also a major distraction for drivers. Drivers who find themselves dozing off should pull over to a safe place so they can rest before resuming their journey.