'Distracted driving' means $124 ticket in King County

Most drivers in Washington state know that driving while texting or talking on a cellphone can result in a traffic ticket.

For King County drivers, any activity that results in "distracted driving" can now result in a $124 ticket, thanks to a new ordinance passed by the King County Council earlier this month.

"Distracted driving is anything that takes the driver's attention away from driving," said King County spokesman Charlie Akers. "This can include anything from eating, putting on makeup, dealing with kids in the backseat, or pets in the driver's lap. Anything that could cause the driver to not focus on the act of driving."

Akers said this new ordinance is a "secondary violation," meaning drivers can't be pulled over specifically for it, but can be cited if an officer determines they were driving distracted after a traffic stop.

"What that means is a deputy will have to stop the driver for another infraction. If the deputy believes the driver was distracted, which caused the initial violation, then the driver could be cited for both violations," Akers said.

Akers used the example of an officer observing a driver drifting onto the shoulder of the road and then coming back onto the road. In this example, when the officer pulls up behind the driver to initiate pulling the driver over, and sees the driver reaching into the backseat, then the officer could determine that reaching into the backseat caused the driver to drift off the road. At the officer's discretion, the driver could be cited for the moving violation, and cited for distracted driving, Akers noted.

"What we want people to understand is driving is a huge responsibility," Akers said. "When someone gets behind the wheel, they not only take their own life into their hands, but also the lives of their passengers and the motoring public. Drivers should be focused on their driving and if they can't, they need to pull to the side of the road or park until they can."


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