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New law prohibits handheld device use while driving

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jesenia Landaverde)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Jesenia Landaverde)

FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- More austere rules regarding handheld devices will be in effect July 23, for all Washington State drivers.

Typing or reading any kind of message, picture or data while driving will be prohibited as well as using handheld devices at a stop sign or red-light signal. Photography while driving is also illegal. This new law permits “minimal use of a finger” to activate an application or device.

“A police officer can pull someone over just for using a handheld device,” said Tech. Sgt. Nicole Sevigny, 92nd Air Refueling Wing safety craftsman. “The Driving Under the Influence of Electronics is a primary offense.”

The standard traffic fine of $136 would nearly double to $235 on the second distracted-driving citation. Distracted-driving citations will be reported on a motorist’s record for use by the insurance industry.

“Miscellaneous distractions such as grooming or eating will be a secondary offense, meaning a ticket may be issued if a law enforcement officer pulls you over for some other offense, such as speeding or a dangerous lane change,” Sevigny said. “The penalty will be an extra $30 fine.”

Cellphones mounted in a dashboard cradle are still allowed. Example of which is using a handheld device for navigation, but not to watch videos or play games.

Other actions that remain legal are built-in electronic systems, such as hands-free calling and maps, calls to 911 or other emergency services, urgent calls between transit employees and dispatchers, amateur radio equipment and citizens-band radio.

“Handheld devices may be used if the driver has pulled off the roadway or traffic lanes where the vehicle can safely remain stationary and is placed in park position,” Sevigny added.

For more information about the new legislation, contact the 92nd ARW Safety office at (509) 247-4809.