Can I Still Drink Coffee While Driving? Washington’s Distracted Driving Law

Avoid distracted driving and stay safe on the road

Abeyta Nelson Injury Law attorneys encourage drivers to avoid distractions while on the road.

According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, fatalities from distracted driving increased 32% from 2014 to 2015. Studies have shown that driving while using a cell phone is more dangerous than driving drunk with a .08 blood alcohol level. Due to the increase of car crashes as the result of driver distraction, Washington state recently passed an E-DUI law and expanded what constitutes distracted driving.

While holding a phone to your ear or texting while driving was already illegal, the Washington legislature recently expanded the law to make any handheld use of a phone illegal, even if you are stopped at a stop sign or red-light signal. The law forbids virtually all use of phones while driving. The new law permits “minimal use of a finger” to activate an app or device. In order to comply with the law, you must pull off the road where your vehicle “can safely remain stationary” before using your phone. The standard traffic fine is $136 for the first citation and $235 for a second citation. Calls to 911 or other emergency services are legal, but, in short, if you are on the road you must stay off your phone.

The law also expanded what constitutes distracted driving. The law states, “any activity not related to the actual operation of a motor vehicle” is subject to an additional fine of $99. This is a secondary violation, meaning a law enforcement officer will not pull you over just for drinking coffee, but you may be subject to a fine if the officer determines that drinking your coffee contributed to the reason you were pulled over. For example, if you a run a stop sign due to spilled coffee or you make an unsafe lane change while applying makeup, the officer may determine the distraction was connected to your bad driving and cite you. To answer the question posed in the title of this article – yes, you can still drink coffee while driving, but you run the risk of secondary citation.

Protect yourself and your family:  put the phone away and minimize all other distractions such as eating or drinking while driving.  If you or a loved one has been injured by a distracted driver, contact Abeyta Nelson Injury Law right away. There is never a charge to discuss your questions with us, and no fee unless we win your case. The sooner we are involved, the more help we can give you.

-blog written by Attorney David Abeyta, Abeyta Nelson Injury Law