Checking for texting after a fender bender

The in basket: Joan Richards writes about seeing a fender bender in North Kitsap that raised a question in her mind.

“I was driving north on Highway , heading home,” she said. “As I was passing Hilltop, a young lady, whose car had hit the one in front of her, was talking to a WSP officer, waving her cell phone around. My husband commented that she was probably texting while driving and not paying attention.

“My question,” Joan said, “is that if someone is involved in an accident, does the investigating officer have the right to check the person’s cellphone for any usage around the time of the accident, or does there have to be a witness stating that they saw that person on the cellphone at the time of the accident?

“I hope so,” she added. “Living on this highway, I have seen way too many accidents and probably a great number of them are due to distracted drivers!!”

The out basket: Trooper Mark Hodgson of the Bremerton office says they can and may ask to see a cell phone in such a situation, but can’t require it.

That would take a court order, a step they would take following a serious injury or fatal accident, but not usually in investigating a fender bender. One or more witnesses to a driver’s use of a cell phone or appearance of having been texting at or before the accident would be more likely to result in an additional citation for those offenses, he said. State law prohibits having a cell phone to your ear or texting while driving.

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