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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

WSP troopers write 878 tickets for distracted driving in first month of Washington’s E-DUI law

A driver uses her mobile phone Wednesday, June 22, 2016, while sitting in traffic in Sacramento, Calif. (Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

When Washington state’s E-DUI law – titled the Driving Under the Influence of Electronics Act – went into effect in June, police officers, deputies and state troopers hoped drivers would think twice before reaching for their phones.

After a six-month grace and education period in which Washington State Patrol issued mostly warnings, it began doling out a stream of citations on Jan 1.

According to WSP spokesman James Prouty in Olympia, troopers statewide made 1,677 E-DUI stops in January and doled out 878 tickets.

WSP spokesman and Trooper Jeff Sevigney said he gave out a couple E-DUI tickets of his own on Wednesday.

Sevigney said he’s noticed a change in drivers’ behavior since the law went into effect, but nothing close to the desired result.

“Many drivers are more concerned about being caught,” Sevigney said. “People aren’t holding their phones up as they drive now, they’re holding them way down in their lap. That makes them put their head down lower, which makes it pretty obvious.”

An E-DUI is defined, per Washington state law, as use of a personal electronic device while driving a motor vehicle on a public highway. A person who does so is guilty of a traffic infraction and must pay a fine.

A first offense is $136; a second within five years is $234.

Nearly one-tenth of motorists are holding a device at any given time, according to a Washington State Traffic Commission survey.

“The new statute is pretty clear,” Sevigney said. “I hope people took the grace period seriously. I have had people drive past me while looking at their phones. They didn’t notice my (patrol vehicle) because they were so distracted by their phones.”

Inside the Spokane County rural and city limits, police officers issued a few E-DUI tickets in January.

According to Spokane Municipal Court records, Spokane police officers issued 102 E-DUI tickets last month. Spokane County District Court records indicate surrounding area officers and deputies issued 65 E-DUI tickets in January.

“This is something we take very seriously,” said Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and Spokane Valley Police Department spokesman Mark Gregory.