Idaho this week adopted new texting and cellphone laws for drivers. We thought we’d review what’s legal and what is NOT in Washington.

Without boring you with legal-speak, in a nutshell, if it’s a hand-held device it’s illegal in Washington State. Hands-free devices such as Bluetooth are legal, but talking on your phone or texting while driving is not permitted. The only circumstances where it’s OK are the following:


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

The same rules apply to cell phone use as well. Another big difference in Washington, as opposed to many states, is violations are considered a primary offense, meaning an officer can pull you over just for seeing you texting or talking on your phone. They do not have to see you commit any other traffic violation. Most states have cell phone restrictions as secondary; meaning you have to be pulled over for some other reason.