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New cell phone law to take effect with no grace period

Beginning June 10, Washington State Patrol (WSP) officers will begin cracking down on drivers caught talking or texting on their cell phones.

According to a press release, state troopers will fully enforce the new primary law and will not offer a grace period; texting while driving and failing to use a hands-free device become primary traffic offenses.

It is common for WSP to offer an educational grace period when a new law requires drivers to change long-standing behavior.

“Drivers have already had nearly two years to adjust their driving habits,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “We will fully enforce this law from day one.”

Laws prohibiting texting and requiring hands-free devices took effect in 2008, but have been considered secondary violations.

Officers had to witness some other infraction in order to make a traffic stop.

The new designation as primary offenses mean police can stop drivers for a texting or cell phone violation alone.

Batiste is disappointed that the laws’ previous status didn’t win more voluntary compliance. In some cases there was outright defiance.

“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 anything.”

The texting and cell phone requirements are intended to save lives and reduce injuries by eliminating these two major sources of driver distraction.

Since the laws went into effect in 2008, WSP has written approximately 3,000 tickets and given about 5,900 warnings.

The state patrol believes the number of collisions caused by inappropriate use of mobile devices is greatly under-reported.

“Few drivers are going to admit they were on a cell phone, or texting, after a crash,” Batiste said. “We're choosing to take action before a collision occurs in hopes of preventing these needless tragedies.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,870 people died in car accidents in 2008.

An additional 515,000 people were injured.

Twenty-eight percent of all accidents in 2008 were caused by drivers between the ages of 18 and 29 that were texting while driving.

Eighty-one percent of the U.S. population admits to texting while driving.

Most drivers today are aware of the risks of texting while driving but do it anyways.

Across the country states are making waves to ban texting while driving.

Studies have shown that texting causes greater impairment than being on drugs or drinking while driving.

The fine for a violation of this new law is $124.

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