By RENTON REPORTER
State troopers have issued nearly 670 citations for cell phone or texting violations since June 10, when holding a cell phone became a primary traffic offense.
At $124 a violation, that's about $83,000 in fines.
The count runs through Thursday, July 1.
The State Patrol district that includes King County leads with the biggest number of stops, 235, and the biggest number of citations, 142.
Texting is a bigger problem in Western Washington than east of the Cascades. On the west side there were 30 citations for texting while driving and only four on the east side.
The bulk of the citations were for cell-phone use.
Even State Patrol Chief John Batiste cited a driver near Joint Base Lewis McChord in Tacoma for talking on his cell phone.
“The fellow was just driving along talking on his phone,” Batiste said in a press release. “He was fully aware of the law and had no excuses.”
Batiste believes compliance has increased since the violation became a primary offense, and that’s making things easier for troopers.
“Those who continue to flout the law are now much easier to spot,” Batiste said.
On June 10, the state’s previous law on cell phones and texting moved from a secondary offense to a primary one. That means officers no longer need some other reason to stop a driver they see texting or holding a cell phone to their ear.
One unique aspect of this law is that the State Patrol did not give a formal grace period, as it typically does with new laws. Because the basic behavior has already been illegal for two years, troopers were told to enforce the new law in exactly the same way as every other violation, according to the press release.
Troopers always have discretion to issue warnings and many did. Along with the more than 670 citations, nearly 500 warnings were issued. That is consistent with the ratio of warnings to citations given for other traffic violations, according to the press release.
During the same period in 2009, only about 110 cell phone and texting citations were issued by the State Patrol. Between 2006 and 2008 in Washington more than 3,000 drivers were involved in collisions while using hand-held wireless devices.