Washington's new cell phone law to hit teen drivers hard

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by DEBORAH FELDMAN / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on June 7, 2010 at 6:48 AM

Updated Monday, Jun 7 at 10:13 PM

SEATTLE -- Beginning this Thursday June 10th, it becomes a primary offense for Washington state drivers to talk with a cell phone pressed to their ear.

For adults, that means paying a fine of $124; however, for teenagers, there is more than just money involved. Teens caught in the act will not be allowed to graduate past their intermediate driver's license until they turn 18.

Right now, teenagers must have an intermediate license for their first six months behind the wheel, or until they turn 18, whichever comes first. During that time, they can not drive between 1 and 5 a.m., and they are not allowed to have any passengers in their vehicles other than immediate family members.

"Yes. I think we'll be very busy," said Trooper Christina Martin, Washington State Patrol. She and her colleagues are gearing up for some long days ahead. While adults may be unhappy to be ticketed, she knows teens will be even more upset up they are caught violating this primary offense.

"It's there for a reason," she said. "Statistically new drivers, teenaged drivers, have a very high collision rate, injury collision rate. And the purpose of that law is to allow them to get their driver's license, get out there, and concentrate on their driving. And learn about being safe on the road."

On the highway, a driver distracted for even a few seconds can travel close to the length of a football field which can have deadly consequences. Most teens we talked with say they did not realize they could be stuck with an intermediate license for an extra year or longer if they're caught on the cell phone while driving, but most agree it's a good idea.

"I agree with them," said 17-year-old Asupa Hefa."It's like, reasonable. But other than that, it is kind of, like, strict."

"I think it'll be a little helpful. Less car accidents and stuff out there, you know," said Federal Way senior Cody Maxwell.

"The public has been warned for two years, a grace period of two years. We're saying the free call is over with respect to getting a citation. They will be stopped and for the most part will be cited," said Snohomish County Sheriff John Lovick.

The Washington State Patrol warns there will be no grace period for this law.

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