News

Sequim phoning it in? Not really

Clallam and Jefferson County drivers seem to be on the same network about the new cell phone and texting law.
Statistics show that drivers in the two counties violate the law less frequently than the state averages.
The Washington State Patrol reports that June 10-July 12 in Clallam and Jefferson counties, officers pulled over 21 drivers for using a cell phone without a hands-free device and five tickets were given, and three stops for texting were made with two tickets given.
In the same time frame, statewide 1,437 stops were made for using cell phones while driving and 842 tickets given; and 100 stops and 49 tickets were given for texting while driving.
Under the new law, about 29 percent of people stopped in Clallam and Jefferson counties received tickets compared to 58 percent statewide.
Most WSP stops are on state routes, followed by the interstate and then city and county roads.

In Sequim

Sequim Police Officer Maris Turner said they've given warnings within the city limits but no tickets. She and other law enforcement personnel are enforcing the law by creating awareness.

Lt. Sheri Crain, interim Sequim Police chief, said in the city limits police are enforcing a grace period of sorts. "We're more issuing warnings and creating awareness through that," Crain said.

Turner said police continue to look for cell phone and texting violators along with other offenses.

No call zone

Washington State Patrol said troopers would not give a grace period.
"The reason being is that the law was already in place as a secondary violation before becoming a primary offense," said Sgt. Freddy Williams, from the State Patrol Office of Government and Media Relations.
Driving without a hands-free device and texting became a primary violation on June 10, meaning law enforcement personnel no longer needed a reason to stop drivers for texting or holding a cell phones to their ear while driving.
State Patrol troopers wrote about 3,000 tickets and gave about 5,900 warnings between the secondary and primary enforcement dates.

Down the road

Williams said people began complying when the law was passed. "We'll have to wait and see if people will change their driving behavior or if it's a reaction to the law and later they'll revert back to their old habits," Williams said.

State Patrol Trooper Krista Hedstrom said whether people receive a ticket comes down to if they are holding a cell phone to their ear. She says people should stay off the phone entirely in the car but if they must talk, then they should pull over and/or buy a hands-free device. Driving without a hands-free device or while texting mean a $124 ticket.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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