Washington State passed a new law in July that strictly penalizes those found guilty of driving under the influence – of electronics.
The new distracted driving law, referred to as an “E-DUI,” forbids drivers from being able to use a cellphone or any other electronic device while operating a motor vehicle.
The bill initially went in for consideration after the state experienced a 32-percent increase in deaths due to distracted driving from 2014 to 2015.
The unique branding for the bill is sparking conversation amongst people from all over the country.
"The DUI part of it catches their attention and they get curious about the 'E,'" said Tina Meyer, whose son Cody was working on a road construction crew when he was struck by a driver looking at a cellphone.
Washington state patrol began giving out warnings to drivers caught committing E-DUIs for the first couple of months after the bill became law to help give drivers a heads up.
“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,” Governor Jay Inslee said.
After January 2019, the warning period is set to end and law enforcement officials will be able to issue offenders actual tickets. The first citation will cost drivers $136. Meanwhile, a second citation within five years of the first one will increase that cost to $236.
"We're gonna reduce drunk electronic driving and that's what this is," Inslee said. "One of the successful things why we've reduced drunk driving, it has become a great stigma."
However, the new law does not come without controversy.
Critics have complained about law enforcement’s ability to pull someone over simply for holding their cellphone, claiming that it was a bit “aggressive.”
Spokane County Sheriff's deputy Craig Chamberlain expressed that the new law isn't meant to punish people.
"The bottom line with the new changes in this law is that we want folks to be safe on the roadway,” he said.
Washington drivers are allowed to use their phones as long as they are hands-free devices and only require a single touch or swipe of your finger to initiate an activity. However, drivers must be safely parked and out of traffic to do so.
Under the new law, drivers can also get a $99 ticket for other types of distractions, such as grooming, smoking, eating or reading, if it proves to interfere with the ability to drive safe. It also must be in conjunction with being pulled over for another traffic offense to be considered valid.
“Put the cell phones down, preserve life,” Inslee continued.
So far, a total of 15 states and the District of Columbia have laws that ban the use of cellphones while driving.