Wash. Cell Phone While Driving Ban Not Very Effective, Say Troopers

06/29/2009
Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski will soon sign into law a requirement that drivers use a handsÔÇôfree device when talking on a cell phone. Meanwhile Washington state is marking the one year anniversary, July 1, of a similar, but weaker law. And state troopers report it's not working very well.

To hear state troopers tell it, Washington drivers are largely ignoring the oneÔÇôyearÔÇôold ban on driving with a cell phone glued to your ear.

Martin: "My personal observation on the road is I haven't seen anything change in the last year."

Trooper Christina Martin says sure more people are using BlueTooths or headsets. But you don't have to look far and wide to find drivers still steering with one hand and chatting on the phone with the other. That is until they see a cop.

Martin: "If you come up in a marked patrol car, you'll see somebody, if they spot you they'll put the phone down or remove it from their ear ÔÇö so they know they're wrong."

In Washington, the handsÔÇôfree law is a secondary offense. That means troopers can't stop you for it, but they can write a $124 ticket if they get you for something else. But in the first year of the law, the State Patrol reports it only wrote 1600 tickets for talking on a cell phone and another 230 for texting while driving. Compare that to the nearly 300,000 speeding tickets issued last year.