Everything You Need to Know About Washington’s Texting and Driving Laws

If you’re caught texting and driving in Washington, you could be looking at a $136 fine for a first offense.
Written by Brittni Brinn
Reviewed by Jessica Barrett
If you’re caught texting and driving in
, you’ll face a fine of $136 for a first offense or a fine of at least $234 for subsequent offenses that take place within five years. Washington’s distracted driving laws make it a primary offense to use hand-held devices while driving.
Washington is one of the few states that has a comprehensive distracted driving law. In 2017, the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act was passed, solidifying the state’s hardline stance against distracted driving. And for good reason—23% of accidents causing serious injuries and 30% of collisions resulting in a fatality in Washington are caused by some form of distracted driving.
Although texting while driving laws have significantly reduced the use of cellphones while driving, people still drive distracted. Car insurance super app
is here to break down Washington’s texting while driving laws so you can avoid the penalties and help keep the roads safe.
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What are the texting and driving laws in Washington?

Texting and driving laws in Washington are primary traffic laws and, for the most part, apply to all drivers. Everything from responding to a text message to checking your emails is covered by the texting and driving law—if you are holding your phone while driving, you are breaking the law.
Out of all the types of distracted driving covered by Washington’s traffic laws, texting and driving may be the most serious. This is because using your phone requires you to move your visual, manual, and cognitive attention away from the road. 
Let’s take a look at these different facets of distracted driving as they apply to texting while driving:
  • Visual distraction: You move your eyes off the road to your phone’s screen, either to read a message, look at an image, or watch a video.
  • Manual distraction: You hold the phone in your hand and use your fingers to type. Instead of keeping both hands securely on the wheel, your manual attention is on your phone.
  • Cognitive distraction: Instead of thinking about driving your vehicle, you move your attention and thoughts to what is on your phone—be it a conversation, an article you’re interested in, or an ad for a movie you want to see.
Texting and driving laws allow for primary enforcement. This means that if an officer sees you using your phone while driving, or if someone else reports you for doing so, you can be pulled over for that infraction alone. Other types of distracted driving, such as eating behind the wheel, only permit secondary enforcement—you have to break another traffic law before an officer is allowed to pull you over.
For these reasons, texting and driving is a risky undertaking that can result in some serious consequences.

What are the penalties for texting and driving in Washington?

If you’re caught texting and driving, be ready to pay a fine. Tickets for distracted driving can range anywhere from $99 to $234. Here’s how the penalties shake out for different types of distracted driving: These fines may seem harsh, but they do help discourage drivers from using their phones when behind the wheel. It’s estimated that at any given moment, one in ten drivers in Washington is driving while distracted. Washington’s texting and driving laws are helping to reduce this number—by putting your phone aside while driving, you can avoid these penalties and help keep roads safe.

Are there exceptions to Washington’s texting and driving law?

Even though Washington’s laws are strict when it comes to using your phone while driving, you can still use it for the following:
  • Calling for emergency services
  • If you are a transit system employee using the dispatch system for communication
  • If you are a commercial vehicle driver using it for work-related purposes
  • If you are operating an emergency vehicle
  • Using a preprogrammed navigation system or GPS
  • Single swipe or touch to activate a hands-free call or music
You can also pull over and stop your vehicle in a safe manner if you need to use your phone. If you find that you’re tempted to check your messages while driving, the safest option is to turn it off or set it to “do not disturb.”

Are there special rules about texting and driving for young drivers?

Yes. Drivers with learner’s or intermediate licenses are prohibited from using phones for any purpose—this includes hands-free and voice-activated features. To avoid a distracted driving ticket, you must put your phone away whenever you’re behind the wheel.
Key Takeaway Texting and driving is illegal in Washington. To avoid a ticket and a fine, put away your phone while driving or make use of the hands-free options.

Can texting and driving raise my insurance rates?

Like any ticket, a texting and driving citation will likely increase your insurance premium. The average driver in Washington pays $1,390 a year on their car insurance. On average, your insurance will increase to $1,657 per year after a texting and driving ticket—that’s a hike of 19% or $267!
So next time you feel tempted to text when you’re on the road, remember—not only will you have to pay a hefty fine if you’re caught, your insurance rates will also suffer. Putting away your phone will not only keep your insurance premiums low, but it will also help keep Washington’s streets safer.

How to save money on car insurance in Washington

Finding affordable insurance rates after a distracted driving ticket can be a challenge. But with the car insurance super app
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No. The highest penalty for texting and driving is a fine of $234 for a repeat offense. If you cause an accident while texting, however, you could face additional charges.
Texting and driving is a factor in one in four car accidents. Washington has implemented strict texting and driving laws to try and reduce the number of drivers using their phones behind the wheel. A police officer can pull you over just for using your phone while driving and ticket you with a hefty fine.
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