Cell phones and texting at ferry terminals

The in basket: Back in October, a commenter on the Road Warrior blog had this to ask after reading a column that said the cell phone and texting laws that had made violations a primary offense a few months earlier didn’t apply on private property:

“How about enforcing cell phone use on the docks while loading the boats?” asked the commenter, identified only as Red.

“People complain that the boats aren’t leaving on time…Well, when someone is on the phone and not paying attention, this slows down the loading process…and it is my understanding the docks are public property not private.”

As I mulled over his question, it occurred to me that the answer might vary depending on whether the car was moving, momentarily still during loading or had its motor turned off while its driver waited for a ferry. Further, the same distinctions would apply in the shoulder holding areas outside the terminals at Bainbridge Island, Kingston and elsewhere.

I asked how the law would be applied in such situations.

The out basket: Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the State Patrol office here says that despite wording in both laws specifying that they apply to “moving motor vehicles,” WSP’s position is that being stopped momentarily, such as at a stop light, does not allow a driver to text or hold a cell phone to the ear briefly.

And the same philosophy would apply in a ferry holding area. “When stopped in a holding lane at the ferry you are still technically on a state route and can be issued a ticket for use of a cell phone.  However, I would be surprised if I heard of troopers ticketing drivers while in a holding lane. This applies to those areas inside and outside of the terminal. This is really where common sense needs to come into play.”

I took it one step further and asked if texting while actually on the ferry crossing the Sound might get a person cited and she said simply, “No. That would be ridiculous.”

Lastly, I asked if WSP would seek amendment of the two laws to remove the “moving” wording and she said the agency has no such intention.

3 thoughts on “Cell phones and texting at ferry terminals

  1. I can’t believe that someone actually complained about texting at the ferry terminal being a major reason for ferry delays. I don’t support texting while driving, but common sense needs to apply sometimes. However, some people will just whine about anything.

  2. Relying on common sense is dangerous. Common sense has all but disappeared from public life. Someone will get ticketed for using a cell phone in a ferry lane, even if their engine is turned off, simply because some trooper decided he can. “Moving vehicles” should mean “moving.” WSP does not write the laws. The legislature does. WSP is supposed to enforce the laws, not invent its own.

  3. How about as the vehicle is moving toward the ferry to board and the driver of said vehicle is on the phone? Would that be considered illegal? Where are the troopers in this case? And yes, people talking on their phones while driving onto the ferrys can cause a delay, THEY DON’T PAY ATTENTION!

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