The Nationwide Impact of Washington State’s E-DUI Law
Many states have texting and driving laws but still allow drivers to hold their phone up to their ear to talk on it. However, with Washington State’s new E-DUI law, those laws may soon see sweeping changes across the country. The nationwide impact of Washington State’s E-DUI law could be significant.
The new law in Washington—which passed in summer 2017—is the E-DUI law, and is the first law passed under that name. According to Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, there is a very good reason they chose this name: drivers on a phone are even more dangerous than ones with a blood alcohol level above the legal limit.
The law strictly forbids holding or even touching a phone while operating a vehicle, even if stopped at a traffic light or stop sign. While drivers are still free to listen to a playlist, they cannot touch the phone to change that playlist.
The law aims to close the loophole that once existed in the state that allowed drivers to say that they were simply trying to pull up a map or change their music when stopped by police for breaking the texting and driving law.
As was the case with the precedent set by Washington State’s texting and driving laws, it makes sense that other states would follow the example set by them here as well.
While Washington State may be the first to unroll a new law under the name E-DUI, they are not the first to enact this type of law. In fact, 14 states have done so before Washington. Delaware has had such a law the longest—since 2011—and many states enacted similar laws in 2017, including California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Oregon.
Washington’s law goes one step further, though, extending to other types of distracted driving rather than just being on a phone. Eating and applying makeup are also offenses that could bring a $136 fine to anyone breaking those laws. In fact, those other distraction laws are what might bring the largest impact.
Shortly after Washington passed their E-DUI state law, Hawaii also went one step further with their distracted driving laws, making it illegal for pedestrians to cross a street while looking at their phones.
The laws in Texas now make texting and driving—or using a cell phone and driving without a hands-free device—illegal. Drivers may only use hands-free devices behind the wheel. However, Texas drivers can still touch their phones, albeit briefly, if they need to begin or end a call or use the GPS on their phone.
For now, Washington may be in the minority of states that made it illegal for drivers to touch their phone in any manner while driving. With changes to state laws already starting around the country, though, there is a very good chance that Washington will lead the way with this law just as they did with texting and driving—and soon, the nationwide impact of Washington State’s E-DUI law is that it may be illegal to touch a phone while operating a vehicle in any state.