Drivers still texting away two years into cell phone law

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by KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on July 10, 2012 at 9:25 AM

Updated Tuesday, Jul 10 at 9:41 AM

Two years after Washington state enacted a law banning people from using their cell phones without a hands-free device while driving, many people either haven’t gotten the message or are choosing to ignore it.

In the first year of the law, troopers ticketed 7,069 drivers for using their phone to make a call and 602 for texting behind the wheel. In the second year, the number of tickets for phone calls dropped to 6,075, but tickets for texting went up to 821.

Almost the same numbers of drivers are being pulled over for suspicion of DUI as they are for using a cell phone while driving.

Troopers say drivers are getting complacent and sometimes forget the law even exists. During our ride-along with Trooper Keith Leary, we spotted a few people who were comfortable using their cell phone, even when Leary was pulled up right next to them at a stoplight. Even there, the law is still in effect.

It’s a $124 fine if you are caught behind the wheel texting or talking on your phone without a hands-free device. It’s a primary offense, meaning police can pull you over if they see you doing it.

‘She never looked up’

Diana Jones’s daughter, Ashley, was killed in February 2011 after crossing the center line on a straight stretch of Highway 12 near Rochester. The 22-year-old was driving her 2005 Mazda 3 when she slammed into an oncoming box truck.

Troopers say she was texting moments before the crash.

“Her cell phone was found on the floorbed, open,” said Jones. “She never looked up.”

Jones is using Ashley’s mangled car to send a message about the dangers of texting and driving.

"I don't even think you should have a headset, wireless. It’s a distraction no matter what you do,” said Jones.

The autopsy also showed Ashley had been drinking earlier in the night.

Report by KING 5's Jake Whittenberg compiled by Travis Pittman

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