As far as rumors go, the driving while texting rumor floating around Seattle might be the biggest. I’ve talked to friends who think the Seattle cops can pull you over if they just see you driving and texting. I’ve talked to friends who think the Seattle cops can only cite you with driving while texting if they catch you for something else (the ominous secondary violation). And I’ve talked to friends who think the Seattle cops are out there looking for drivers who are texting to take them down. Well, today is your lucky day because I, a Seattle traffic attorney, am going to uncover the mystery that is driving while texting.

What Does the Driving While Texting Law Say?

To get to the bottom of driving while texting, I figured I would go to the source of all the confusion – the statute. Texting while driving and its illegality is governed by RCW 46.61.668. It was passed by the Washington State Legislature just this year. And here it is, summarized a bit by me:

    First, if you are operating a car and, by means of a cell phone, and not a permanently fixed GPS device, send, read, or write a text message, is guilty of a traffic infraction. If you are selecting, writing, or entering a phone number for the purposes of making a phone call, you are not deemed to be texting.

    Second, if you are in this select group of people doing these precise things, you are exempt from this law:

      authorized emergency vehicle; or

      a moving motor vehicle while using an electronic device to:

        (a) report illegal activity;

        (b) summon medical or other emergency help;

        (c) prevent injury to person or property; or

        (d) relay information between a transit operator and that operator’s dispatcher, where the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle.

To translate, you can’t drive while texting unless you are reporting an emergency, reporting illegal activity, or a transit operator. Otherwise, you are probably guilty of texting while driving, and need to call a Seattle traffic ticket defense attorney.

Texting While Driving Penalties

And finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for – the penalty. I’m going to quote it here so you can see first hand that driving while texting is a secondary violation. Here is the exact language:

    (3) Enforcement of this section by law enforcement officers may be accomplished only as a secondary action when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of this title or an equivalent local ordinance or some other offense.

    (4) Infractions under this section shall not become part of the driver’s record under RCW 46.52.101 and 46.52.120. Additionally, a finding that a person has committed a traffic infraction under this section shall not be made available to insurance companies or employers.

Bottom line, driving while texting is a secondary violation, will probably only cost you fifty bucks, and can’t be used against you for insurance purposes or any other purposes.

What this New Law Really Means

One last thing before I go. Because it’s my job, I always look for the weak points in the law. And this law seems to have little teeth. Apart from texting, people can do many things with their phones – check email, write email (which isn’t technically texting), play on the internet, play games, read the newspaper. The list goes on and on. Under the language of the statute, this type of behavior doesn’t seem to be improper.

If you are cited and weren’t driving while texting but doing something else, it might be beneficial to get some help. Not only do we know the law, but we know how to persuasively present your case in conjunction with the law so the judge will understand where you are coming from.

About Me: Christopher Small is an attorney with Emerald City Traffic Defense. If you need help with traffic tickets, we can take care of you. If you’ve got questions, call today 206.651.4245.