I’m working on an editorial in support of making it a primary offense to talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving except for emergency purposes. (And yes, I know columnist Peter Callaghan thinks hands-free devices are just as unsafe. I disagree, figuring at least they allow drivers to keep both hands on the wheel. The research is also conflicted on whether hands-free is as dangerous as hand-held.)
In my research, I came across the latest roundup of where the different states stand on cell phone use by drivers. It’s only a secondary offense here, meaning police need to catch drivers doing something else, like speeding. But it’s a primary offense in Oregon ($142 ticket!), California, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
It took state Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, a few years just to get the secondary offense on the books. She’ll be trying to make it a primary offense when the Legislature goes back in session Monday. We wish her good luck. It’s pretty obvious that the secondary offense is having little effect on driver behavior; it’s time to get tougher.