New cell phone law takes effect, but 'farding' still legal

New cell phone law takes effect, but 'farding' still legal »Play Video
A woman uses her cell phone while driving in this 2009 file photo.
SEATTLE -- Many drivers have gotten the message about the law allowing officers to hand out $124 tickets to anyone they see holding a cell phone to their ear, the Washington State Patrol said Thursday.

Troopers "are seeing fewer violators than they would have yesterday," said WSP spokesman Bob Calkins.

The patrol had warned there would be no warning period for the new law since the violation had been a secondary offense for two years, which meant drivers could only receive a citation for a cell phone violation after being stopped for another primary violation.

"Every trooper has individual discretion, but there's no formal grace period like we would normally get with a new law," Calkins said.

The trooper said the Vancouver area was "fairly active," but fewer tickets were handed out in Bremerton in rainy weather.

Lawmakers hope the stronger enforcement reduces driver distractions and accidents.

There are exceptions for people with hearing aids, making a 911 call or setting a cell phone to speaker and holding it in front of the mouth. It's also legal for truckers, bus and taxi drivers and emergency responders to use their radios to talk.

But Trooper Keith Leary admitted that there are gray areas. For example, texting while driving is not allowed, but it is not illegal to look down and dial a number or scroll for an address on your phone.

"The only clear restriction is holding the phone to your ear," said Leary. "There are gray areas where people can do a lot of other things, and not break the law."

It's not illegal to eat or smoke or "fard" while driving. Farding is the act of putting on makeup.

Leary said the patrol is not placing a special emphasis on ticketing cell phone violators.

"Now, if we see our collision picture start to increase, and we are not seeing people start to comply. Yeah, that is something we are going to look at and target."

So while it is now illegal to text while driving in Washington, it's still OK to fard in your car.