Driving while phoning can equal high car insurance premiums in Washington state

Question: Does a violation for using a cellphone while driving affect my insurance rates?

Answer: You betcha.

“eDUI tickets are treated the same as any other moving violation that appears on your motor vehicle report,” Pemco Insurance reported in its December edition of Perspective Newsletter.

“Insurance-wise, they’re considered a ‘major violation.’ For comparison, that’s worse than speeding but less serious than a hit-and-run.”

A violation for driving while cellphoning stays on your record for three years, according to Pemco.

“Drivers in both Washington and Oregon can be ticketed for using an electronic device not just while the car is moving but also when they’re stopped at a light or stop sign,” the newsletter states.

In the spirit of full disclosure, we feel compelled to report that we here at Traffic Q&A headquarters are Pemco customers.

Now, the fact that driving while distracted by cellphone or tablet or laptop would be reportable to insurance companies was never a secret. It was widely discussed as the state Legislature mulled the bill that later became law a few years back.

But reminders are always good.

Judging from figures the Washington State Patrol provided at our request, some of you need a reminder that driving while holding your phone is a no-no.

From Jan. 1 to Nov. 30 of this year, state troopers stopped 21,057 people statewide for suspicion of “distracted — electronic device.” Troopers handed out 11,765 citations and 159 written warnings, gave 9,112 people a talking-to and took no enforcement action in 21 cases.

In 2017, before the law was fully enforced, troopers stopped 6,839 people for “distracted — electronic device” and handed out 1,189 citations.

By way of comparison, total stops for “distracted — non-electronic,” think eating or adjusting the radio, were 1,605 in 2018 and 520 in 2017.

Said John Shaffer, a State Patrol spokesman: “Distracted driving continues to rise as one of the major causes of collisions on our roads. The jump in numbers show the rise in this issue and also the impact of the law that went into effect.”

An eDUI ticket, by the by, will run you $136 for a first offense, and, as we mentioned above, cost you more for car insurance.

So we say this with all due respect: Hang up and drive.

Adam Lynn is the local news editor and writes the Traffic Q&A column for The News Tribune. He has worked as a journalist for more than 30 years, most of it in Washington state.