Washington to enforce tougher distracted driving laws

An man works his phone as he drives through traffic in Dallas, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013. Texas lawmakers are considering a statewide ban on texting while driving. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) – Washington drivers will soon have to put down their phones or else face tougher penalties under a new distracted driving law that takes effect this weekend.

Texting or holding a phone to your ear is already against the law, but the new law that takes effect Sunday prohibits anything else that requires drivers to hold their electronic devices – including phones, tablets and other electronic gadgets – while behind the wheel.

That means no reading of incoming text messages while driving, or watching a quick video while stuck in traffic or sitting at a red light.

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.

The standard traffic fine of $136 would apply to a first offense but would increase to about $234 for a second offense.

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