Washington State police are on the lookout for distracted drivers who are violating texting and cell phone laws. “Distracted drivers” are drivers who are paying attention to something else while driving such as talking on a cell phone, texting, or changing the radio station. According to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, distracted driver-involved crashes accounted for at least 20% of all traffic fatalities in King County from 2008-2012, killing 86 people and seriously injuring an additional 338. There are many ways by which drivers can be distracted, but risks associated with cell phone use are significant. Studies have shown individuals who text while driving are 23% more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers.

Washington’s current cell phone laws came into effect in June, 2010. Formerly, drivers could only be ticketed for texting while driving if it was a secondary offense. However, under the new law if police see you holding your phone or texting while driving, they can pull you over and issue a ticket for the offense.

Violations of cell phone and texting laws carry a $124 fine for a first-time offense. This could be significantly more if you are involved with causing a collision.

Cell Phone Law:

  • Washington State’s Cell Phone Law (RCW 46.61.667) states you may not use a wireless communications device or hand-held mobile telephone while driving. Drivers must use hands-free devices.
  • Drivers with Instruction Permits (RCW 46.20.055) or Intermediate Licenses (RCW 46.20.075) cannot use any wireless communication device while driving, even if it is hands-free, unless in an emergency situation.

Texting Law:

  • Washington State’s Text Messaging Law (RCW 46.61.668) prohibits sending, reading, or writing a text message while driving.


Washington drivers are permitted to use handheld cell phones in the following exceptions only:  (Please note: These exceptions do not apply to drivers with Instruction Permits or Intermediate Licenses)

  • If operating an authorized emergency vehicle or a tow truck responding to a disabled vehicle
  • Using a hands-free device including a speakerphone, blue tooth, or headset
  • Reporting illegal activity or calling for medical or emergency help
  • Using a hearing aid

In emergency situations, drivers are urged to evaluate the urgency of the situation and necessity of cell phone use, and to pull over to a safe place if at all possible.