On his Wednesday morning commute, a Seattle man did something we’re probably all guilty of from time-to-time. He checked his email while waiting at a long stoplight. Unfortunately for him, Seattle Police Officer Kevin O’Neill and I were on a mission to find violators of Washington state’s new distracted driving law — and picking up your phone to check email at a light is now illegal.

If you’re often tempted to check your phone while sitting in heavy Seattle traffic, you may want to pay attention. That behavior could cost you $136 under the new law — a fate I watched three people narrowly escape during an hour riding along with O’Neill.

My ride-along this week underscored just how technology-dependent we’ve become. Sure, our devices have an obvious purpose behind the wheel — providing navigation to get us where we need to go. But more to the point, many of us have become accustomed to filling all dead time — and there’s a lot of that when driving around Seattle — on our phones. The law changes that reality for drivers and means many of us are going to have to break hard-formed habits. The number of drivers we saw using their phones also illustrates how traffic cops are going to have a much heavier workload enforcing the new law.

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