Crackdown on cellphones is good for Washington

Our state’s new cell phone law apparently is having an effect. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done to get these drivers to obey the law.

Citations written by Washington state troopers for cell phone violations increased more than five-fold after state legislators changed the violation from a secondary to a primary offense.

That change meant that troopers could pull people over for cell phone violations. Previously, as a secondary offense, troopers could only cite if they observed some other violation first.

Statewide, in the 11 months ending May 15, 2011, troopers wrote 6,850 citations to drivers who held a phone up to their ear. In the final 11 months under the secondary law, only 1,344 tickets were written.

Citations for texting also more than doubled, from 225 to 549.

Here in King County over the past 11 months, troopers cited 1,398 people for using a cell phone while driving, compared with only 157 in the final 11 months of the secondary law.

While those numbers are impressive, it’s obvious that many people are ignoring the law and continuing to drive in an unsafe manner. Just look at drivers in cars next to you; many are talking on cell phones.

Troopers have the discretion to decide whether to cite or warn drivers based on a number of factors. They typically cite for only about half of all violations they witness.

One thing that’s hard to determine is how many accidents are caused by cell phone use. Not surprisingly, few drivers are willing to tell an investigating officer that using their cell phone caused the accident.

The fine for using a cell phone or texting while driving is $124. If more people had to pay that fine, perhaps it would finally drive the point home.


Craig Groshart is editor of the Bellevue Reporter, a sister paper of The Mirror. This item was first published June 16. Contact: cgroshart@bellevuereporter.com.



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