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State law appears not to stop drivers from talking, texting on the road

Wed., Dec. 14, 2011

Despite a Washington ban on texting and talking on hand-held phones while driving, authorities say they see it happen all the time.

While no current data was immediately available Tuesday on the number of tickets issued for doing so in Washington or the city of Spokane, many officials said anecdotally the state ban has done little to curb the number of drivers who are distracted by their phones.

“I see people texting all the time,” said Spokane police Sgt. T.J. Lee. “I’d say the compliance is very low, but that’s my personal opinion.”

The law went into effect June 10, 2010. Between Jan. 1 and June 10 of this year, Spokane police issued 709 tickets for cellphone use and texting, according to a Spokesman-Review article at the time. During that same time period, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office issued 443 tickets to drivers talking on their phones and five for texting.

The law made cellphone use while driving a primary offense, meaning authorities could stop drivers they saw breaking the law – and issue a $124 ticket.

As the National Transportation Safety Board recommends a nationwide ban of using cellphones while driving, some question whether such a measure would make a difference in Washington.

“Obviously here texting while driving is illegal, and we have the hands-free law already, so I don’t know how it would necessarily apply to us,” said Trooper Troy Briggs, spokesman for the Washington State Patrol.


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