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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Washington State Bans "Texting While Driving"

State House Also Sends Bill to Governor Increasing Penalties for Repeat Car Thieves

If you are a Washington state driver, writing or sending a text message while behind the wheel could now cost you $101.

After signing off on Senate changes, the state House passed a measure banning text messaging while driving on a 90-8 vote. The bill now heads to Gov. Chris Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.

"This is absolutely dangerous behavior," said Rep. Joyce McDonald (R-Puyallup), the bill's sponsor. "Driving while text messaging is a lethal combination."

According to the bill, texting while driving is a secondary offense, which means that drivers could receive a traffic ticket only if they were apprehended for a primary offense such as speeding or running a red light.

The ticket won't become part of a driver's record. The measure exempts transit and emergency vehicle personnel, as well as anyone who is text messaging to report illegal activity or summon emergency help.

An additional measure that would insist that drivers use handsfree devices when using their cell phones is also expected to be signed by Gregoire.

The texting offense would be considered a traffic violation, typically carrying a $101 fine.

McDonald said she hoped the law would help drivers stay focused on driving.

"Sometimes we just need to tell people, 'don't do it, it's against the law,"' she said. "If we don't say it's wrong, people assume it's right, even when it isn't. Even when they know better."

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