I was stopped for Texting While Driving. What am I facing?
Texting while driving is the new frontier for ambitious legislators who want to get reelected for being tough on "bad drivers." So what is the law regarding texting or using a cell phone while driving?
First of all, its an infraction, which means you can't go to jail. So unlike a DUI, which carries with it up to a year in jail, you are only facing a monetary penalty. Another positive is that it won't show up on your driving record (ADR) at the Department of Licensing and thats because its not a "moving" violation.
The cell phone statute and the texting while driving statute both say that you can not use you phone or other electronic devise while operating a car or vehicle. Commercial vehicle operators are treated differently and allowed to use devices if the vehicle is pulled over off the roadway.
The statute does not penalize those who use phones in hands free mode. And for all those burdened with an ignition interlock, who have to blow while driving, you are not braking the law when you give a breath sample while driving.
Why do we have a texting while driving law?
Let me explain. Horrible things happen every day. And there is a legislative congressman or woman waiting to write a new law to claim victory come election time. Well thought policy changes often don't come from horrible crimes that make for good headlines. But the fact is now law enforcement has text messaging to add the charges when bad things happen. And the new statute has given police another basis to stop drivers and get a sniff of alcohol.
Just before the statutes were passed, a two-year-old passenger was injured in a collision on School Street SE, in Thurston County. The driver was a 29-year-old, who was driving southbound, left the roadway and struck a parked car. The two year old was not properly restrained and sustained facial injuries. The driver was not wearing a seat belt and was also injured.
A cell phone was located on the floor of the car, with a partially completed text message. Bowers admitted to texting while driving was charged with using a wireless device while driving, failure to use a child-restrained device, and failure to wear a seatbelt.
The new texting while driving bill was signed into law, which prohibits both texting and using a cell phone without a hands free device. In the past, these were considered secondary offenses. Officers could not pull over a car solely based on the driver using a cell phone or texting. This is now considered a primary offense, which give the officer a right to pull over and ticket a driver because they are believed to be using a cell phone illegally.
The current law in Washington states the device must be "hands free," which is defined as:
"For purposes of this section, "hands-free mode" means the use of a wireless communications device with a speaker phone, headset, or earpiece."