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Holding cell phone while driving would become primary offense under Eide bill

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Dec. 31, 2009 at 3:25 pm | 28 Comments »
December 31, 2009 3:39 pm

Federal Way Sen. Tracey Eide will promote a bill to make cell phone use in cars a primary offense next week by offering drivers tests to newsies in Seattle.

Eide, who championed the existing law banning cell-phone use without a hands free device and all texting, is planning to make the law more stringent this next session. Currently police can issue citations only after stopping drivers for another offense such as speeding or inattentive driving. Her bill would allow police to make stops and issue tickets if they see drivers holding phones to their ears.

“Studies show that texting drivers are as dangerous on the road as drivers with a blood-alcohol level of .16 — twice the legal limit,” Eide said in a statement. “When you consider that two-thirds of teen drivers say they text and drive, we’ve got a critical public-safety issue on our hands. We need to strengthen our laws.”

A companion bill will be introduced in the House by Seattle Democrat Reuven Carlyle.

The driving tests for the news media will be done in the Qwest Field parking lots on Wednesday. Safety experts will monitor how drivers respond to a test course while talking into a hand-held device versus using a hands free device.

Research has shown that cell-phone use and texting are distractions and could lead to increased accidents. But the same research has shown that the distractions are not significantly lessened while using hands-free devices. The distraction comes not from holding the phone but from holding the conversation. There are no proposals, however, to ban all cell phone conversations while driving.

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