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Cell use without bluetooth will be ‘primary offense’ as of June 10

The Washington State Patrol will not offer a grace period when texting while driving, which will become a primary traffic offense on June 10, as will failure to use a hands-free device.

It is common for the state patrol to offer an educational grace period when a new law requires drivers to change long-standing behavior.

“Drivers have already had nearly two years to adjust their driving habits,” said WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “We will fully enforce this law from day one.”

Laws prohibiting texting and requiring hands-free devices took effect in 2008, but have been considered secondary violations. Officers had to witness some other infraction in order to make a traffic stop.

The new designation as a primary offense means that police can stop drivers for a texting or cell phone violation alone.

Batiste is disappointed that the law’s previous status didn’t win more voluntary compliance. In some cases, there was outright defiance.

“They would look right at our troopers with phones held to their ears,” Batiste said. “They knew that without another violation, we couldn’t do anything.”

The texting and cell phone requirements are intended to save lives and reduce injuries by eliminating these two major sources of driver distraction.

Since the laws went into effect in 2008, WSP has written approximately 3,000 tickets and given about 5,900 warnings.

The fine for a violation is $124.

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