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Thousands of drivers warned about cellphone use

OLYMPIA – The Washington State Patrol has stopped and issued warnings to almost 4,800 motorists for DUI-E, driving under the influence of electronic devices like their cellphones.

Starting in January, they’ll be issuing tickets that will cost $136 for the first offense and $234 for each subsequent offense of typing, texting, watching a video or doing almost anything that requires more than one finger movement on a cellphone or other electronic device.

“This is an education period,” State Patrol Capt. Monica Alexander told the Senate Transportation Committee Monday.

Troopers have also issued 378 warnings for distracted driving – doing things like eating or bending down to pick up something from the floor – to motorists who were stopped for other traffic infractions such as speeding, changing lanes or weaving. Starting in January, those tickets will cost $99 on top of any fine for the primary offense.

The Legislature approved new traffic laws earlier this year in an attempt to cut down on drivers who use their cellphones or do other things that lead to dangerous situations. Originally the bill would have given motorists more than a year to get used to the new laws, but Inslee vetoed that section, allowing the law to take effect in July, but the State Patrol said it would give warnings for the first six months.