Washington State Text Messaging and Cell Phone Laws

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Handheld cell phone use and texting is prohibited for all Washington drivers. All cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) is prohibited for novice drivers.

Cell Phone Use

All Washington drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones while driving except if:

  • operating an authorized emergency vehicle, or a tow truck responding to a disabled vehicle;
  • using a hands-free device including a speaker phone, a headset, or an earpiece;
  • reporting illegal activity, summonsing medical or emergency help, or using the device to prevent injury to a person or property; or
  • using a hearing aid.

Novice drivers in Washington - drivers with a learners or intermediate permit – are prohibited from all cell phone use.

If handheld cell phones are prohibited, then what’s permissible? Here are the common options:

  • abstinence (don't use a cell phone while driving)
  • speaker phone
  • use a bluetooth wireless device
  • use a wired headset
  • install a car kit

Texting Laws

All Washington drivers are prohibited from texting except if:

  • operating an authorized emergency vehicle;
  • reporting illegal activity, summonsing medical or emergency help, or using the device
  • to prevent injury to a person or property; or
  • relaying information between a transit or for-hire operator and that  operator's dispatch, in which the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle

Bus Drivers

All Washington bus drivers are prohibited from using handheld cell phones and from texting.

How is it Enforced?

The new Washington driving law imposes a fine of $124 for a first-time offense. Washington’s handheld cell phone and texting laws are considered “primary” laws, as is the prohibition on all cell phones for bus drivers. A primary law means that an officer can pull you over for the offense without having to witness some other violation. That is, the officer sees you texting and issues a citation.

Read more about Washington’s distracted driving laws.

Additional Information

Follow the links below to get more information on Washington driving laws found on this website.

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