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Motorists still phoning, texting despite state's new distracted driving law

KOMO photo

SEATTLE - Two weeks after the state's new distracted driving law took effect, many motorists are still texting while behind the wheel of their cars.

And that's keeping state troopers very busy as they hand out warnings and citations to drivers violating the new stricter law.

Talking on a handheld device behind the wheel was already illegal in Washington, but only if the driver was caught doing something else wrong, like running a stop sign.

Now it includes reading or sending texts - even when you're stopped at a light. Hands-free devices are fine.

A first offense will cost $136. A second ticket jumps to $234.

Troopers are trying to give drivers a six-month grace period to adjust - but the number of contacts is rising.

In the week before the switch officers contacted 273 drivers for cellphone violations. That number jumped to 337 after the laws took effect.

Citations have shown the biggest increase - up from 27 to 118. Verbal warnings which more than doubled, from 155 to 306.

According to the state's Traffic Safety Commission, fatalities in Washington caused by distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014 to 2015.

And motorists should bear in mind that distracted driving tickets are reportable to their insurance company.

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