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Here's what the stricter driving law will mean for Washington's drivers.

Your life with a cell phone and Washington’s new law

As Washington prepares to implement a stricter distracted driving law, are you asking yourself OMG, HOW AM I GOING TO LIVE WITHOUT MY SMARTPHONE WHEN DRIVING!?! If so, you may have an unhealthy relationship with your device. On some level, many of us do.

On just about every commute we can count at least one near miss by a driver that is distracted by their device. We are upset when we are on the receiving end of the near miss, but often think to ourselves that we are a “good” distracted driver when we can’t resist the chime of the latest text or phone call. Research shows that it’s impossible to have focus on the road when interacting with a device.

We rely heavily on our smartphones for work, entertainment and communication. They are vital to staying connected and getting work done - even when we’re in the car, which will soon be illegal in Washington. AAA has advice for drivers in advance of the law change: turn your phone off, put it in airplane mode or put it somewhere where you can’t reach it when you’re driving. The point is, don’t let your phone be a temptation at all when driving.

On July 23, Washington’s new distracted driving law goes into effect which bans the use of personal electronic devices while driving. Essentially, this means you can’t hold or poke at your phone while driving anymore. If you get caught, it’s a $136 fine, which doubles after the first time, and it’s reportable to your insurance.

Is it still legal to use Bluetooth or your in-vehicle technology system? Yes – but it’s not safe. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has spent the past four years studying the cognitive workload of using a cell phone through in-vehicle technology systems and smartphone voice-activated systems.

AAA found that ALL in-vehicle and smart phone systems were MORE distracting than using a cell phone (handheld & hands free) except for two, the Chevy Equinox and Buick Lacrosse, which measured the same level of distraction as using your cell phone – the least distracting systems were still not less distracting!

We often rely on laws to tell us how to be safe, and Washington’s distracted driving law isn’t there yet. Your friends at AAA Washington hope that you’ll go beyond being a law-abiding driver and will make the decision to be a safe driver by putting away your device.

Here’s how you can prevent distracted driving:

  • Turn off or put away all personal electronic devices
  • Adjust GPS, stereo and other in-vehicle systems before you hit the road
  • Pull off the road to take a call, eat or groom
  • Don’t call or text someone if you know they’re driving

For more information go to AAA.com/distracteddriving.

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