Thursday, June 10, 2010

Better get your hands free...

Beginning today,June 10th a new law comes into effect for Washington State that we anticipate is going to have some pretty heavy consequences.
As of Thursday, cops and state troopers can stop AND TICKET drivers who are talking on cellphones or texting while driving. Anyone using a cell-phone while driving without using a "hands-free" device can receive a $124 ticket.

Just so there's no misunderstandings on this matter:
And if you have an intermediate license or a permit, you are prohibited from using a phone 
while driving at all - with or without a hands-free device. 

Washington State Patrol reported that there will be no grace period for this new law either, so no one is getting off with a warning or will be able to tell an officer after they've been pulled over, "but, I didn't know."  
Please spread the word to everyone you know about this change
While we are in favor of this law forcing people to drive safely, we're not necessarily in favor of tons of people receiving tickets being the way that they are informed of the change in the law.

Supposedly, a campaign was begun Monday, June 7th, to raise awareness about the new law, but outside of some newspaper articles, there doesn't seem to be much being promoted regarding the law specifically.

We DID manage to find some videos through a site called Drive Nice Day, which was promoting awareness by targeting teens with slogans and videos around the topic of Safe Driving. All of these PSAs were made by students here in Western Washington and include a reminder about the new law and the date it goes into effect, one of which includes a new slogan, "Don't Drive While In-text-icated."

Before the change to the law, drivers could be ticketed for using their cellphones only if they had been pulled over for another offense such as speeding. And despite what seems like universal agreement that driving while using a cell-phone is unsafe, the jury is still out on how much safer this law will make the roads.

 From the Seattle Times:
"It's a feel-good law. It makes people think, 'We're trying to do something to address the problem,' " says professor David Strayer, of the University of Utah's psychology department.

...his research, and over the years that at other institutions shows there is no difference in driver impairment between those talking on hand-held versus hands-free cells.

The problem, he says, isn't with the hands. It's with the brain. Drivers turn their focus to the conversation rather than the road.When using either kind of cellphone, says Strayer, "the brain becomes overloaded."

And in NY state where a hands-free law has been in effect since 2001, different groups disagree - some asserting that the law has reduced deaths and others claim that it hasn't reduced crashes, even though it's reduced hand-held phone use.

The message that all agree on is that the brain is distracted when using a cell-phone in ANY way and driving simultaneously, which puts the driver and everyone around them at risk. The problem is most people think, "that may be the case for everybody else, but not me. I can handle it." Oh yeah? try on this game for size and see how well you do:

No matter which side of the argument you find yourself standing on, if you get behind the wheel, this new law is going to effect you. So here's a quick rundown.

New law takes effect June 10
What it does: Makes it a primary offense to use a hand-held cellphone while driving. Ticket won't become part of a driver's permanent record or be reported to insurance companies.
For drivers under 18: Outlaws any cellphone use, even with a headset.

Penalty: $124 fine for texting or talking without a headset.

Exemptions: Transit and emergency-vehicle personnel, tow-truck operators and those using a hearing aid are exempted, as well as anyone text-messaging or calling to report illegal activity or summon emergency help.

Sources: State of Washington and The Associated Press

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