Don’t eat while driving. Don’t put make up on while driving. Don’t text while driving. Don’t watch a video while driving. Don’t read while driving. Not even if stopped at a light or stop sign. (It’s legal if you pull over to do any of these things.)
It’s not a crime, but a civil infraction, like a speeding ticket. Now, you’ll get a DUI-E: “driving under the influence of electronics” ticket. The fine is $136.
It’s already been the law that holding a phone and talking on it (except for 911 calls), and hugging or embracing a passenger while driving are unlawful. But this law goes farther than any other in the nation as Big Brother is now in your passenger seat!
Eating or shaving while driving are “secondary” offenses with only a $30 fine. A “secondary” offense is one that an officer can’t pull you over for, if that’s all you’re doing wrong. There has to also be a “primary” (more serious) offense committed, then they can tack this secondary one on. Here, secondary offenses are all the non-electronic things one can do behind the wheel.
This new law expands the opportunity for police officers to make “pretextual stops.” What’s a “pretextual stop?” Its a false reason for stopping a driver. Its where an officer pulls you over for an alleged minor infraction, but is really trying to bag you for DUI, drugs or something else.
I understand the safety concern about texting while driving, but we already have negligent and reckless driving laws. These new actions that have been made civil infractions, are already against the law because they are already subsumed under our general negligence and reckless driving laws. And reckless driving carries a one-year penalty. So there’s already lots of deterrence for driving while distracted.
It shouldn’t really matter the reason one is driving dangerously, whether because one is smoking, hugging, tired, gacked up on coffee or texting, the danger is still there and our general negligent and reckless driving laws already cover it.
Hey, traffic officer, quit looking at my head, shoulders and hands, and just watch my car for unsafe driving. Please just look at my wheels, speed and blinkers, not my face, shoulders and hands.
If I’m driving unsafely, it shouldn’t really matter why. Let’s repeal this law which treats drivers like children and invades privacy. Or at least let’s delete the all-encompassing “other distractions” section.
Jeff E. Jared is a criminal defense attorney in Kirkland