Cell phone tickets are written, but texting is hard to prove

The in basket: Alison Loris says that despite the emphasis patrol local law enforcement announced and conducted last year to stop and ticket drivers on their cell phones or texting, “it doesn’t look like anything has changed. The frequency of drivers texting or chattering into their phones seems to be getting worse, not better.”

“I drive to and from South Bainbridge frequently now,” she said, “and that is scary – a large percentage of the drivers around seem to be young women in expensive cars too busy texting to drive – alternately lagging and ferociously tailgating.”

“Just out of curiosity, I would like to know how many citations were issued in Kitsap in 2014 for phoning or texting while driving.”

The out basket: I got figures for cell phone citations from Washington State Patrol here and Kitsap County District Court.

Trooper Russ Winger, WSP spokesman here, said there were 380 citations for cell phone use or texting at the wheel issued in their seven-county district, which includes Kitsap and Mason counties, in 2014.

Maury Baker, administrator of the Kitsap County District Courts, said there were 493 such tickets processed in those courts in 2014, down from 547 in 2013. Many of them would have been written by WSP on Kitsap roads. Other jurisdictions wrote the others.

Trooper Winger added, “A common complaint of troopers and officers in general is the fact that it is hard to see or prove that a driver was texting. There are many ‘exempt’ things one can legally do while driving. Looking up a phone number or address is legal. Using, setting or simply looking at a GPS is legal. Simply looking up information on a smart phone such as email or even accessing the internet is not illegal under the law. I even saw one traffic stop where the driver claimed he was checking his stock trades!

“These are common excuses drivers give officers when stopped for texting. All of these things are distracting a driver’s attention away from the road, yet perfectly legal. When given the opportunity drivers seem to try and get away with as much as possible.

“The law as written seems ineffectual and problematic to many officers that enforce the law. The strongest answer to assist officers with enforcement is to simply make the use of all electronic devices illegal when driving,” he said.

2 thoughts on “Cell phone tickets are written, but texting is hard to prove

  1. Why doesn’t the State just make all cell phone activities that involves actually holding a cellphone illegal. If you are using GPS then get a holder to keep it hands free. I know there are other distractions in a vehicle that people do, but cell phone usage is the worst of all.

  2. I assume they stopped using RCW 46.61.525 for this when it became so pervasive that the ‘reasonably careful person’ test doesn’t seem to apply to use of phones.

    Do we have something similar to the “inattentive driving” code of King County?

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