State patrol targets, tickets drivers using cell phones

Troopers of the Washington State Patrol issued nearly 670 citations for cell phone or texting violations between June 10-July 1.

The number grew by at least one a day later when State Patrol Chief John Batiste cited a driver near Joint Base Lewis McChord.

"The fellow was just driving along talking on his phone," Batiste said. "He was fully aware of the law and had no excuses."

"Those who continue to flout the law are now much easier to spot," Batiste said.

On June 10, the state's previous law on cell phones and texting moved from secondary to primary. That means officers no longer need some other reason to stop drivers they see texting or holding a cell phone to their ear.

Because the basic behavior has been illegal for two years, troopers were told to enforce the new law in exactly the same way as every other violation.

Troopers always have discretion to issue warnings and many did. Along with the more than 670 citations, nearly 500 warnings were issued. That is consistent with the ratio of warnings to citations given for other traffic violations.

During the same period in 2009, only about 110 cell phone and texting citations were issued by state troopers. Between 2006-2008 in Washington, more than 3,000 drivers were involved in collisions while using hand-held wireless devices.

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