New cell phone law takes effect July 1 in Washington state

| 6/30/2008

As of Tuesday, July 1, drivers in the state of Washington will risk getting tickets for talking on the phone. The state already prohibits text messaging while at the wheel.

The new law prohibits talking on the phone while driving without a hands-free device. Exceptions are made for emergency calls.

Failure to adhere to either rule is a secondary offense – meaning drivers would have to be pulled over for another offense, such as speeding, before they could be ticketed. Those found to be in violation would face $124 fines. No points would be added to driver’s licenses and insurance companies wouldn’t be notified.

As of Jan. 1, the state started enforcement of a law prohibiting operation a motor vehicle while reading, writing or sending a message on an electronic wireless device, such as BlackBerry devices. Violations are considered a secondary offense.

Washington joins California, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey as the only states that have bans on all drivers from using hand-held phones. New Jersey and Washington state also prohibit text messaging. Minnesota recently approved its own ban on text messaging.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor