Washington State Cell Phone Law
No cell phone use
- Drivers may not use cell phones while they are driving, stopped in traffic, or at a stop light. This also includes tablets, laptops, games, or other handheld electronic devices.
- Drivers may not watch video while they drive.
- This does not apply if a driver is contacting emergency services.
- Drivers can use hand-held devices when they are parked or out-of-the-flow of traffic.
Hands-free use is allowed
- Hands-free use, such as through Bluetooth, is allowed as is a single touch to start a function. Start GPS or music before you drive.
- You can also get a citation for other types of distractions such as grooming, smoking, eating, or reading if the activity interferes with safe driving and you are pulled over for another traffic offense.
What’s not included
- Some things are not included in the law. Transit and emergency vehicle drivers are exempt. Drivers of commercial vehicles must follow federal laws.
- Two-way radio, citizens band radio, or amateur radio equipment are not included in the law.
For more information visit: wadrivetozero.com/distracted-driving
School Zone Safety
The Traffic Unit conducts school zone speed enforcement during the school year. All school zones are active when lights are flashing or children are present so careful attention to speed is necessary to protect the safety of kids traveling to and from school. School zone speeds are 20 m.p.h.
Here is startling information on risk of death to pedestrians based on vehicle speed:
Pedestrian Fatality Risk at Various Striking Vehicle Speeds
- 14 MPH – 5%
- 21 MPH – 10%
- 25 MPH – 25%
- 28 MPH – 58%
- 30 MPH – 75%
- 35 MPH – 99%
School bus with the stop paddle safety tips
- Drivers need to stop in a two-lane road no matter which way the bus in traveling.
- If the road is divided, the cars that are traveling in the same direction need to stop.
- If there is a two-way turn lane, cars in the turn lane need to stop as well as the vehicle that is going the same direction as the bus.
Child Passenger Safety
The Legislature recognizes that many deaths of children under the age of 16 years can be eliminated if they use an appropriate child safety seat, booster seat, or seat belt.
By law, it is the responsibility of the driver of the vehicle to ensure that all children under the age of 16 are properly restrained in accordance with the regulations below.
Washington’s Child Restraint Law, RCW 46.61.687, was amended January 1, 2020
- Children who are younger than 2 years old must be in a rear-facing car seat.
- Children who are 2 to 4 years old must be in a car seat with a harness, whether they’re facing the rear or facing forward.
- Children who are older than 4 and who have outgrown a car seat must use a booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall. Most kids reach that height when they’re 10 to 12 years old.
- A child who is under 13 years old shall transport the child in the back seat positions in the vehicle where it is practical to do so.
For more information on child passenger safety visit the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.
When consuming intoxicants
- Be responsible.
- Choose a designated driver, use a taxi, mass transit or a rideshare.
When throwing a party
- Offer plenty of non-alcoholic beverages.
- Serve plenty of food.
- Stop serving alcohol well before the party ends. Give your guests an extra hour or two without alcohol before they head out the door.
- Arrange alternate transportation.
- If someone appears at all impaired call a cab or rideshare, arrange for a sober driver or give them a place to stay until they are sober.
Detecting impaired drivers
There are several signs associated with impaired driving:
- Making wide turns
- Weaving, swerving, drifting, or straddling the center line
- Almost striking an object or vehicle
- Driving on the wrong side of the road
- Driving at a very slow speed
- Stopping without cause
- Braking erratically
- Responding slowly to traffic signals
- Turning abruptly or illegally
- Driving after dark with headlights off
If you see what you think is an impaired driver, keep a safe distance and call 9-1-1. Do not attempt to stop the vehicle yourself.
The City of Vancouver has a bicycle helmet ordinance requiring both adults and children to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, roller skates, in-line skates, skateboard, scooter, or unicycle in a public area. Please review the ordinance before heading outside.
National Bike Registry
The National Bike Registry (NBR®) has been working with law enforcement to return stolen bikes to their rightful owners. A bike registered with NBR, the only true national database, can be identified by police and returned to you instead of being sold at an auction. The Vancouver Police Department works with this registry. Visit the National Bike Registery to register your bike today.
Bike Safety FAQs
Q: Which traffic laws apply to bicyclists?
A: When ridden on any roadway, a bicycle rider has all of the rights and responsibilities of any vehicle. (RCW 46.61.755)
Unless bicycles are specifically excluded, all traffic laws apply to bicycles. All violations are subject to issuance of an infraction.
Q: Are children required to comply with bicycle traffic laws?
A: Bicyclists of all ages are required to follow the same traffic laws and may be cited for violations. Parents or guardians may be held responsible for a child’s violation. (RCW 46-61.700) A parent or guardian shall not knowingly permit bicycle traffic safety violations by their ward (RCW 46.61.700).
Q: May bicyclists ride side by side?
A: Yes. They may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. (RCW 46.61.770.2)
Q: Should bicyclists ride with the flow of traffic or facing traffic?
A: Bicycles are required to be ridden with the flow of traffic at all times. (RCW 46.61.100)
Riding against the flow of traffic is one of the leading causes of bicycle/automobile collisions.
Q: It sounds like bicycles are treated just like cars by the law, right?
A: Right! A “vehicle” is defines in RCW 46.04.670 as “every device capable of being moved upon a public highway…, including bicycles.”
Q: What equipment is required on bicycles being ridden at night?
A: A white front light and a red rear reflector are required. (RCW 16.61.780)
In addition, a red lamp may be used on the rear of the bicycle. A brake or brakes capable of making the wheels skid on clean, dry, level pavement is required at all times.
Q: Can I carry something in my hands while riding a bicycle?
A: As long as you can keep one hand on the handlebars and maintain control of the bicycle, you can carry things in your other hand. (RCW 46.61.775)
Q: Where in the traffic lane should a bicyclist ride?
A: That depends on the number and types of lanes as well as the traffic in the area. A bicycle traveling at the speed of traffic may use the middle of the lane.
A bicycle traveling at less than the speed of the traffic flow should ride as near as is safe to the right side of the right lane except when preparing to turn, passing another vehicle or on a one way street where it is legal to ride on the left side of the roadway. (RCW 46.61.770)
Bicyclists may ride on the right shoulder, but this is only required on limited access roadways, (such as freeways).
A bicyclist should ride in the middle of the right lane when the lane is too narrow to permit side by side sharing of the lane with motor vehicles and hazards prevent safe operation of the bicycle on the shoulder or at the right edge of the lane.
A bicyclist must pull off of a 2-lane roadway, like any other slow moving vehicle, when 5 or more vehicles are lined up behind it, if there is sufficient area for a safe turnout. (RCW 46.61.427)
At intersections bicycles will normally follow the same path as other vehicles. At difficult or dangerous intersections, riders may dismount and use the crosswalks.
Q: If there is a bike path adjacent to a roadway, do I have to ride on the bike path or can I ride on the roadway?
A: It is your choice. Sometimes a fast rider may want to ride on the roadway if the path is too crowded.
The Vancouver Police Department is one of the participating law enforcement agencies in the Clark County Target Zero Task Force. This group is committed to improving traffic safety in our area to save lives.
Pedestrian safety is one of the areas of focus of the Target Zero Task Force and while walking safely may seem like an easy thing the unfortunate facts are pedestrian traffic deaths are on the rise!
Pedestrian Safety Focus In Clark County
On a daily basis most of us are pedestrians at some point. In addition, many people are pedestrians on a regular basis to transport themselves to or from work or school or for recreation. While walking may seem safe, there are things to keep in mind as a pedestrian to avoid becoming a statistic.While traffic safety often focuses on drivers, pedestrians play a vital role in their own safety.
Under a grant from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, law enforcement agencies across the county will have extra patrols out enforcing pedestrian safety. Please slow down and watch for pedestrians. If you are a pedestrian remember there are rules you should follow to stay safe!
Pedestrian Safety Tips
- Walk on sidewalks. If sidewalks are not available, walk on the edge of the road or on the left shoulder of the road, facing the traffic flow. Use pedestrian bridges when they are available.
- Cross at marked crosswalks or intersections. Pedestrians are most often hit by cars when they cross the road at places other than intersections.
- Look left, right, and left for traffic. Stop at the curb and look left, right, and left again for traffic. Stopping at the curb signals drivers that you intend to cross. Always obey traffic signals.
- See and be seen. Drivers need to see you to avoid you.
- Stay out of the driver’s blind spot.
- Make eye contact with drivers when crossing busy streets.
- Wear bright colors or reflective clothing if you are walking near traffic at night.
- Carry a flashlight when walking in the dark.
- Do not let kids play near traffic or cross the street by themselves.
- In bad weather, take care that your umbrella or raincoat does not prevent approaching vehicles from seeing you.
- Watch your kids. Small children should not cross streets by themselves or be allowed to play or walk near traffic. Kids cannot accurately judge vehicle distances and speeds and may make unpredictable movements.
- Drinking and walking? Alcohol can impair the judgment and motor skills of pedestrians just as it does for drivers. Don’t take alcohol risks with walking, just as you would not with driving. Take the bus, take a cab, or have a friend drive you home. Beware of the effects of prescription and non-prescription medications and drugs, too.
- Obey traffic signals. At intersections where traffic is controlled by signals or a traffic officer, pedestrians must obey the signal and not cross against the stop signal unless specifically directed to go by a traffic officer.
For more information on pedestrian safety visit the Washington Department Of Transportation.
How You Can Get Involved
Visit the Washington Traffic Safety Commission website to learn more and get involved.