Auto insurance

Unhappy New Year! Here’s your E-DUI ticket

Thursday, February 22, 2018by  Jon Osterberg

A distracted driver holds his cell phone on his lap to avoid detectionWashington's new distracted driving law has been enforced since Jan. 1, and state troopers issued 878 tickets last month while seeing some odd driver behavior.

A Washington State Patrol trooper told The Spokesman-Review that more drivers are holding their phones down on their laps, out of sight, to avoid being caught. That makes them tilt their heads low – an obvious clue, and also dangerous because it draws their vision far from the road.

I've witnessed such drivers a lot, and it's pretty absurd. The phone offenders look like they're contemplating their crotches.

Reaction time soars when your eyes wander from the road even for just a second. Simple math tells us that a car traveling at 60 mph covers 88 feet per second. At 70 mph, it's 103 feet per second.

Now imagine you're driving the speed limit on a freeway, and you look down to skim a text, or to tap out a phone number. In the meantime the car in front of you brakes suddenly to avoid a swerving driver. Or maybe it's road debris, or a deer. How far would you travel before you looked up and recognized danger?

Even if you were traveling at the recommended following distance – two seconds, which few drivers adhere to – you'd have just enough time to stop, assuming you react immediately to brake lights. If you're distracted even for just a couple seconds, you crash.

Spokane police alone issued 102 E-DUI tickets in January. A first offense costs drivers $136, and a second ticket within five years sets you back $234.

What you really don't want is to be set back by a crash caused by distraction. In rear-end collisions, PEMCO claims adjusters will tell you it's the following vehicle that's almost always at fault.

I can imagine what the courts would say if I rear-ended someone while reading a phone on my lap.

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