Law enforcement officers statewide will begin stopping and ticketing drivers this week for speaking on the phone while holding it to an ear or texting while driving.
The state’s beefed-up cell phone law kicks in Thursday. Lawmakers this past session made talking on the cell phone without a hands-free device and texting primary offenses.
No compliance means a $124 ticket. The Washington State Patrol has said there will be no grace period.
“Drivers have known this is coming,” trooper Keith Leary said.
Leary added that drivers have had time to get the equipment to go hands-free. He thinks there will be a “sharp behavioral change” among drivers accustomed to talking or texting while behind the wheel. But he said he hopes the new law will cut down on distractions behind the wheel.
The state Department of Licensing and the State Patrol are starting a campaign to day to get the word out on the new law.
Teenagers will have stricter regulations. New teen drivers will be banned from using their phones at all, except for emergencies. The new law will be included in the curriculum in driver’s education.
Among the materials is a public service announcement about Heather Lerch . Around 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 23, Heather, a 2009 Tumwater High School graduate, lost control of her 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt on Littlerock Road, about two miles from her family’s home. Phone records show that she had been sending and receiving text messages until the moment before the crash.
“I applaud the new law,” said her mom, Wendy Lerch , who has participated in antitexting campaigns.
“I don’t know if it would have prevented her death. I think this all helps people see it’s a reality. She was texting and driving and now she’s gone.”