The era of holding up a cell phone to your ear while driving in Washington is over. Granted, it had been illegal for a couple years, but beyond the reach of the cops if drivers were obeying all other laws.
Texting, too, is out. And don’t pull over to talk on the shoulder, because that’s not safe, either.
Even the police say they’ll limit time on the phone while driving, even though they’re exempt from the law.
Will some continue to drive around talking and texting, ultimately disregarding the law? I suppose, but judging by the strong words from our local law enforcement leaders, I’d say it’s a habit that’s going the way of the Dodo.
“In an effort to protect the public and cut accidents we will be enforcing this law the day it goes into effect,” said Shawn Delaney, deputy chief of the Poulsbo Police Department.
But even if it’s enforced from the get-go, Al Townsend, chief of the Port Orchard Police Department, points out that his office is not planning any type of emphasis patrols. A cell phone violation will be weighed like any other.
“Officers will maintain the same discretion they have on any traffic infraction as to whether they will stop and warn the driver or write a citation,” he said.
But the police, too, have noticed this law has been extensively covered in the press.
“The Mason County Sheriff’s Office is very much aware of the extraordinary amount of media coverage this law has had so we do not anticipate an education period for motorists violating this law,” said Dean Byrd, Mason County Sheriff’s spokesman.
We already know, however, what the state patrol’s plans are. They will likely be the police agency that focuses on this new law most.
UPDATE: Monday, June 14: I heard back from Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer. Here are some of his observations:
“We are essentially on the same page with the (state) patrol. Thanks to the media attention, the educational component is well placed. As previously reported, even with the law enforcement exemption, we have provided the essential tools for our people to set a good example.
There will be those who want to argue; however, it is just common sense (with a strong research foundation); too bad legislation is required to modify human behavior. Besides, why would good people want to risk hurting anyone? It was interesting to me how many fewer people were using cell phones today (Thursday, the first day of the law) than yesterday.”