Washington state's new distracted driving law took effect over the weekend, and it has many concerned that some of their favorite, nay necessary, mid-drive activities—like, say, drinking a cup of coffee—may result in a $99 fine. Meant to penalize those using electronic devices in particular while driving, the law was written to include “any activity not related to driving that interferes with the safe operation of a motor vehicle,” which could include eating, drinking, applying makeup, etc.
But fear not, Washingtonians, according to USA Today you won't be penalized for drinking coffee while driving under the new distracted driving law. Unless drinking coffee was causing you to drive distracted.
Basically, you won't be pulled over simply for driving while having a cup of coffee. But if you are pulled over for driving poorly and it is clear that you were paying more attention to your coffee than your task of safely maneuvering a two-ton death machine around other two-ton death machines, then you can probably expect a ticket.
Washington State Patrol Capt. Monica Alexander gave the following example in the article (the word “cheeseburger” has been changed to “coffee” to help Sprudge readers better understand the analogy):
The article notes that, like with other secondary offenses—like driving barefoot—officers factor in the “totality of circumstances” and have the discretion to not write a distracted driving ticket when it is not warranted.
It's a pretty common sense law. No, you won't get ticketed for drinking coffee while driving if it doesn't impair your ability to operate a motor vehicle. Yes, you will be ticketed (or maybe even double ticketed) if you're swerving around all willy nilly while trying to suck out that last little bit of whip cream on the top of your morning frappe. So don't do that. No one wants to die over whip cream.
Zac Cadwalader is the news editor at Sprudge Media Network.
*car image above via Stuffpoint