Monday, June 24, 2013

WA Cellphone Law Joke

Washington's cellphone law for drivers is a big joke. Really, it's the most useless law the Washington legistlature could have possibly passed to control drivers using cellphones while driving. Every day I walk I will see any number of drivers violating it.

The law was originally proposed to ban driving with a cellphone unless they use a hands-free phone built into the car or attached and used in such away it does not require the driver to hold it. The law banned teenagers (under 18) from texting or using a cellphone while driving.

But when the opposition got through with the bill, the law still banned teenagers from using them (like that happens) and still banned texting for anyone. It only banned using cellphones when held to the ear. It allowed the driver to hold the phone in front of them while driving.

The idea was that it didn't take the driver's eyes off the road, but it took their mind off the road, and the term "in front of them" is vague, as many drivers simply put their cellphone on speaker and hold it just off their ear and slightly in front of them.

But in the end, there isn't a day go by I don't see drivers violating the law, mostly holding it to their ear or somel texting.  And if you bring it to their attention, they get angry with you. Really, so much I stopped asking them if they knew their cellphone use was against the law.

What was worse, but fixed, was that the laws enforcement officers could stop and ticket a driver solely for violating the cellphone law. It was what is called a "secondary" offense so they had to be stopped for other reasons and then cited for violating the cellphone law, but only if the officer witnessed it.

Now it's a "primary" offense they can stop and ticket a driver but I've never seen, heard or read of a driver being stopped and cited. It's only become an issue if the driver was involved in or caused an accident and the driver was using a cellphone, but again if it's not witnessed, it's not a violation.

I've also seen a lot of drivers texting, usually sitting at lights, despite the law says "while driving" meaning anytime they're in the driver's seat. Drivers intepret it, wrongly, as moving than sitting at lights or in traffic.

I even had a young woman pass me on the Interstate south of Seattle doing 70 mph all the while looking down at her cellphone texting. She literally had no hands on the steering wheel or was looking down the road the whole time she passed me.

And while walking I pay more attention to drivers at intersections. If they're using a cellphone I make sure I know what they're doing with the vehicle before walking near and especially in front of them, such as crosswalks.

So in the end, the whole law is a joke and the legislature doesn't plan to fix it, to ban holding any cellphone while driving. They think it works because there hasn't been a significant increase in accidents.

But in reality, it's just a lot of people are lucky because other drivers are watching out for the idiots with cellphones. I pay attention to other drivers when I drive and get away from them when I can, especially drivers of commercial trucks (really) and even tractor-trailor rigs (even more really).

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