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Driving and Hand-Held Chatting No More In Washington State

Posted by Jane Akre
Monday, June 30, 2008 9:51 PM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Auto Accidents, Teen Drivers, Motor Vehicle Accidents, Wrongful Death, Dangerous Products

Washington state is the latest to ban hand held cellphone use while driving.



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStock Photo/Driving & talking teen/ author: MSR photo


As of Tuesday, July 1, drivers in Washington State can no longer catch up with friends or conduct business while they are driving with a cell phone to their ear.

A new law was signed into effect last year by Governor Chris Gregoire as he was flanked by children injured by distracted drivers. One of them, 12-year-old Billy, suffered a brain injury when he was hit by a driver talking on the phone.

Drivers can still use a hands-free device, but talking on a hand-held, texting, or even a driver who reads while driving, can face up to a $124 ticket.  

Washington joins five states and the District of Columbia to become the latest to address the plethora of electronic devices that crowd the living room of our cars including, iPods, GPS mapping systems, and possibly soon, the Internet.

(Chrysler has just announced that some of its new models will have Internet hotspots.)  

According to the state patrol, there were more than 141,000 collisions in Washington State in 2007. 158 of those accidents had “operating” a hand-held device (cell phone, MP3 player) as a factor.

A study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety finds that cell phone users are four times more likely to be in an accident. Spokesman, Russ Rader says it’s the talking that is the distraction.

"If you continue to allow hands-free phoning, you haven't addressed the safety problem," Rader said to the Tri-City Herald.

Five states ban hand-held cell phones while talking.

Other states to ban the use of cell phones include California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Utah. Besides the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands already have cell phone laws on the books.

Certain localities have restricted the use of cellphones including, Chicago, IL; Brookline, MA; Detroit, MI; Santa Fe, NM; Brooklyn, North Olmstead, and Walton Hills, OH; and Conshohocken, Lebanon, and West Conshohocken, PA.

But eight states are prohibited from banning cellphone use including: Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Utah.  In Utah, cellphone use falls under a "careless driving" offense that occurs when the talking is accompanied by another moving violation, according to the Institute for Highway Safety.

According to the group, no state completely bans all type of cell phone use for all drivers.

Washington’s law is not be a primary enforcement one, meaning that an officer cannot pull someone over for a cell phone offense alone. He or she must be speeding for example AND talking on the hand-held cell phone before a ticket is issued.

New York was the first state to pass a law prohibiting hand-held cell phone chatting while driving.  Last year, the state issued more than 312,000 tickets, up from 81,000 in 2002, when the law went into effect.

And four states have bans on text messaging for all drivers including, Alaska, Minnesota, New Jersey and Washington.

Teens in North Carolina actually began using cell phones more while driving after a law there took effect. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported that the teen drivers did not think the law was being enforced.

Teens using cellular phones in the graduated licensing system, are prohibited in 17 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Institute for Highway Safety.

25 countries have cell phone driving laws that restrict or ban hand-held cell phones in calls including Brazil, Australia, Chile, Denmark Greece, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Portugal, Singapore, S. Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Turkey, among others. #

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