Put down that phone! Police stepping up E-DUI patrols in April

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Tempted to grab your cellphone while behind the wheel? Don't!

Beginning Monday, over 150 extra law enforcement agencies will be looking for distracted drivers. The statewide initiative goes through April 14, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

Under the "Driving Under the Influence of Electronics” (E-DUI) law, drivers may not hold cell phones or watch videos while they are driving, stopped in traffic, or at a stop light. This includes tablets, laptops, games, or any hand-held electronic devices. The law restricts hands-free use to a single touch.

“Our goal is to raise public awareness about the dangers of distracted driving,” said Erika Mascorro, program manager for Washington Traffic Safety Commission. “Research shows that drivers are three times more likely to crash when talking on the phone, and 23 times more likely to crash when entering information into their phone.”

A statewide survey of Washington drivers found that 96 percent agree that using a cell phone while driving is dangerous, 88 percent said they don’t check social media while driving and most said they do not read incoming texts. Only one percent felt comfortable being a passenger in a car with a driver who was texting.

Nearly 1,500 drivers have been ticketed each month since Washington’s new E-DUI law began in July 2017. The first E-DUI ticket will cost drivers $136. If the driver incurs a second ticket within five years, the fine increases to $234.

All information on cell phone infractions is now available to insurance companies.