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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Inslee To Sign Distracted Driving And DUI Bills

Kevin Mooney
Northwest News Network
A new distracted driving law in Washington state will prohibit drivers from holding a smartphone or similar device in either hand.

A trio of measures Gov. Jay Inslee will sign into law Tuesday aims to make roads in Washington state safer. They include a new ban on using electronics behind the wheel.

The new distracted driving law will prohibit drivers from using an electronic device while cruising down the road or even stopped at a light. Use means holding a smartphone or similar device in either hand. It also includes using a finger to operate the device except for a quick touch to activate or deactivate a function.

The new law will replace Washington’s decade-old ban on texting and driving or holding a cell phone up to the ear while driving. A violation of the new law will come with a $136 ticket.

But drivers will have some time to get used to the new rules. The law won’t take effect until January 1, 2019.

Inslee will also sign into law a long-fought measure to make a fourth drunk driving conviction within a decade a felony. Currently, it takes five DUIs before prosecutors in Washington can charge a felony.

Inslee will also sign an omnibus DUI bill that will make it easier for police officers to get certified to take blood from suspected drunk drivers. That’s instead of having to take them to the hospital for a blood draw.