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Ban on texting while driving goes to governor

OLYMPIA – Washington drivers: Don’t even think about reading, writing or sending a text message while behind the wheel. It could cost you $101.

The state House passed a measure banning text messaging while driving on a 90-8 vote Tuesday after signing off on Senate changes. The bill now heads to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.

“This is absolutely dangerous behavior,” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup. “Driving while text messaging is a lethal combination.”

The bill makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers could receive a ticket only if they were pulled over for a primary offense such as speeding or running a red light.

A ticket will not become part of a driver’s record, and dialing a phone is not considered text messaging.

The measure exempts transit and emergency vehicle personnel, as well as anyone who is text messaging to report illegal activity or summon emergency help.

Another measure that would require drivers to use hands-free devices when talking on their cell phones is also expected to be signed by Gregoire.

The texting offense would be a traffic infraction, typically carrying a $101 fine.

McDonald said she hoped a law would bring awareness to drivers so that they think about staying focused on driving.

“Sometimes we just need to tell people, ‘Don’t do it, it’s against the law,’ ” she said. “If we don’t say it’s wrong, people assume it’s right, even when it isn’t. Even when they know better.”


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