Beginning in 2007, if you were pulled over by police for a traffic infraction and you were holding a cell phone, they could also ticket you for talking on the cell phone. Legislation passed during the 2010 session changed the current cell phone law into a primary traffic offense. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, if police see you talking on a cell phone, they can pull you over and ticket you.
Here are the answers to some basic questions about the new law.
Q: What does the law prohibit?
A: The law prohibits operating a moving motor vehicle while holding a wireless device to your ear.
Q: Are there any exceptions?
A: Yes. The law allows you to drive and hold a cell phone to call 911 to report illegal activity, summon medical or emergency help or prevent injury to a person or property. It's also OK if you wear a hearing aid. Also, truckers, bus and taxi drivers and emergency responders are allowed to use their radios to talk.
Depending on where you are driving, it may be OK if you set your phone to "speaker" and hold it in front of you to talk. Law enforcement agencies are interpreting the law in different ways. For example, while the Washington State Patrol says it's OK, Redmond Police say they will cite you.
Q: Does the law apply only to freeways?
A: No. The new cell phone law applies to any public right-of-way in the state. Even if you're driving in an alley with a phone to your ear, you can be cited.
Q: Can I be cited if I'm using the phone while stopped along the road?
A: Pulling over for a non-emergency on the freeway or on another road where parking or stopping is illegal will get you an illegal parking ticket, but not a ticket for the phone.
Q: What about dialing and answering the phone?
A: Touching a phone to dial or answer a call is allowed.
Q: What about text messaging?
A: Text messaging is banned.
Q: How are new drivers affected?
A: The law outlaws any cell phone use by new drivers with a learner's permit or an intermediate license, which is given to drivers under 18 years old.
Q: How much is the fine?
A: The fine is $124.
Q: Will a violation raise my insurance premium?
A: No. Violations will not become part of your driver's record and will not be made available to your insurance company or your employer.
Q: What types of devices can drivers use to comply with the law?
A: "Hands-free" headsets, wireless Bluetooth-type devices or built-in speaker phones.
Read the laws pertaining to cell phone use