It’s Washington law: Drivers can’t hold phones

'Minimal use of a finger' is still allowed

An man works his phone as he drives through traffic. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (KOIN/AP) — Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a measure that bans holding hand-held devices while driving and doubles the cost for multiple offenses.

The measure, signed by Inslee in Tacoma Tuesday, prohibits holding an electronic device – including phones, tablets and other electronic devices – while driving, including while in traffic or waiting for a traffic light to change.

“The distracted driving bill basically tightens up a bunch of loopholes that were in place from the old distracted driving bill,” Battle Ground Police Sgt. Tom Wilson said.

The current law only prohibits texting or holding a phone to the ear while driving.

Inslee vetoed a section that had the measure take effect in 2019. He said it was too important to wait for the provisions to become law. It will now take effect in mid-July.

Wilson said drivers should expect police to be on the lookout for offenders.

“Officers will be on the streets, they’ll be looking to see if they see you distracted and talking on the phone, texting or having an electronic device in your hand,” Wilson said. “You can expect to be pulled over and given a ticket.”

Under the measure, “the minimal use of a finger” to activate, deactivate, or initiate a function of a personal electronic device while driving will still be allowed.