Don’t expect any leeway from Washington State Patrol troopers when the new hands-free cell phone law takes effect June 10.
The State Patrol announced Friday that troopers will immediately enforce the new law, which makes failing to use a hands-free device while talking on a cell phone and driving a primary traffic offense.
“Drivers have already had nearly two years to adjust their driving habits,” State Patrol Chief John R. Batiste said. “We will fully enforce this law from Day One.”
Normally, State Patrol troopers offer drivers a grace period when a new traffic law takes effect. The grace period allows troopers to educate drivers about the change and for drivers to alter their behavior.
Not this time.
That’s because the new law is a modification to the original cell phone law that took effect in 2008.
The original law banned texting while driving and required a hands-free device for anyone talking on a cell phone while driving. Both were considered secondary violations, meaning an officer had to witness a primary traffic violation before pulling over a driver on the phone.
“The new designation as primary offenses mean police can stop drivers for a texting or cell phone violation alone,” according to a State Patrol statement.
Batiste said there hasn’t been much voluntary com-pliance with the original law.
“They would look right at our troopers with phones held to their ears,” Batiste said. “They knew that without another violation we couldn’t do anyth- ing.”
State troopers have written about 3,000 cell phone-related tickets and issued 5,900 warnings since the origi- nal law took effect in 2008.
The fee for a violation of the new law is $124.
Stacey Mulick: 253-597-8268 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/crime
Staff writer Sean Robinson contributed to this report.