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You can now be charged with a ‘DUI’ for using a phone while driving in Washington state

A new Washington state law will charge drivers with an “E-DUI” for using a hand-held electronic device will behind the wheel of a car, even if it is parked at a stoplight. (2014 file photo/Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Washington state drivers using any electronic device while behind the wheel — even when parked at a stoplight — could result in charges akin to a DUI.

A new distracted driving law, referred to as an “E-DUI,” takes effect in the Evergreen State on Sunday, according to KCPQ-TV. The legislation was written in response to a 32 percent increase from 2014 to 2015 in the number of deaths resulting from distracted driving.

“Put the cellphones down, preserve life,” Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said from the steps of the Capitol in Olympia, Washington. “When you are driving with a cellphone, you are a more dangerous driver than if you are driving drunk with a .08 blood alcohol level.”

The governor said that the bill is called “electronic driving while impaired” for a reason.

State troopers will be giving out warnings for the first few months before they start writing tickets, Patrol Chief John Batiste said. The first citation will cost drivers $136 and a second citation within five years of the first one jumps to $236.

The new law also allows law enforcement officers to charge motorists $99 if they are participating in other distractions, such as smoking, grooming, eating, or reading if it interferes with safe driving. That, however, is considered a secondary offense.

Tickets issued for using hand-held electronic devices while behind the wheel will go on the driver’s record and will be reported to their insurance provider, according to a website set up by the state to explain the new law.

Inslee expects the law to be as successful as the “click it, or ticket” seat belt law, which now sees 95 percent compliance across the state.

“There’s hardly anything we’ve done in the last several years at the state Capitol to save more lives than this distracted driving law,” he said.

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