New cell phone law takes effect this summer

Starting this summer, text messaging or holding your phone to your ear while driving will cost you $124.

Starting this summer, text messaging or holding your phone to your ear while driving will cost you $124.

By Tony Sermonti
If you’re driving on the freeway, you can travel more than the length of a football field in the time it takes to read a short text message.

For the past few years, if police pulled you over for a traffic infraction, they also could ticket you if you were holding your cell phone and talking. Now, talking on your cell phone could be the violation that gets you pulled over to begin with.

Starting on June 10, talking or sending text messages while holding a wireless device will carry a $124 fine, after legislation signed today by Gov. Chris Gregoire that changes the current cell phone law into a primary traffic offense.

Since 2007, holding a cell phone while operating a moving vehicle has been a secondary offense, meaning that officers could only ticket drivers pulled over for another violation. The new law adds hands-on cell phone use as a violation that officers can treat as a primary offense.

Quick facts about cell phone use while driving:

  • A driver talking on a cell phone is as impaired as a driver with a .08 blood-alcohol level.
  • A driver who is texting is as impaired as a driver with a .16 blood-alcohol level. That’s double the legal limit.
  • Drivers talking on cell phones are half a second slower to hit the brakes in emergencies and miss more than half the visual cues seen by attentive drivers.

4 Responses to New cell phone law takes effect this summer

  1. Walkimbo says:

    People need to actually read the damn law. It says nothing about texting. There are also numerous exemptions included in the law. This is an example of a pointless feel good law. Wise up and read the RCW rather than poorly researched re-hashes.

    • DOL Blog says:

      Here is the text of the law that makes it a traffic infraction to text message while driving (this is the text as of this moment and reflects that it was was passed as a secondary offense in 2007. It becomes a primary offense on June 10, 2010:

      RCW 46.61.668
      Sending, reading, or writing a text message while driving.

      *** CHANGE IN 2010 *** (SEE 6345-S.SL) ***

      (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) of this section, a person operating a moving motor vehicle who, by means of an electronic wireless communications device, other than a voice-activated global positioning or navigation system that is permanently affixed to the vehicle, sends, reads, or writes a text message, is guilty of a traffic infraction. A person does not send, read, or write a text message when he or she reads, selects, or enters a phone number or name in a wireless communications device for the purpose of making a phone call.

      (2) Subsection (1) of this section does not apply to a person operating:

      (a) An authorized emergency vehicle; or

      (b) A moving motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to:

      (i) Report illegal activity;

      (ii) Summon medical or other emergency help;

      (iii) Prevent injury to a person or property; or

      (iv) Relay information between a transit or for-hire operator and that operator’s dispatcher, in which the device is permanently affixed to the vehicle.

      (3) Enforcement of this section by law enforcement officers may be accomplished only as a secondary action when a driver of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of this title or an equivalent local ordinance or some other offense.

      (4) Infractions under this section shall not become part of the driver’s record under RCW 46.52.101 and 46.52.120. Additionally, a finding that a person has committed a traffic infraction under this section shall not be made available to insurance companies or employers.

      [2007 c 416 § 1.]

  2. Michael Craig says:

    I can spot a cell phone user easily when driving behind them. They’re driving habits are rather obvious, and…annoying!
    The problem is this law doesn’t go far enough…even “hand’s off” devices or “bluetooth” doesn’t solve the this situation. When talking on the phone a person’s thought process is not at the task of driving.
    All phone use while driving should be outlawed. It’s not so much your hands are occupied as it is your brain is occupied.

  3. Miles Frazier says:

    Hooray I have almost been killed numerous times by people who don’t or can’t check thier blind spot and change lanes allmost striking me on my motorcycle. They don’t look because they are cupping a phone on thier shoulder.

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