Cell phone bill, text message ban signed into law

Cell phone bill, text message ban signed into law »Play Video
OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - Hang up or pay up: Using your hands to talk on the phone or tap out a text message while behind the wheel of a car will be illegal next year.

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the measures into law Friday, flanked by children who suffered serious injuries after being hit by distracted drivers.

Under the new laws, drivers who read and compose text messages or talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device could face a $101 ticket. The text-messaging ban takes effect Jan. 1; the cell-phone law will be enforced starting in July 2008.

Drivers are exempt in some situations, including emergencies, and neither offense will be enough to get a driver pulled over by the police.

But parents of children injured in collisions with such drivers said the new laws are still a major improvement.

Cindy Baker-Williams and her son Billy were among those who stood by as Gregoire signed the bills. Billy, 12, suffered a brain injury four years ago while walking to the school bus. Witnesses to the crash said the driver was talking on a cell phone at the time, Baker-Williams said.

"It's a very emotional time," she said. "Behind this bill, we see faces of people in our community who hopefully will never have to go through a pedestrian-car accident."

Billy Williams, who was in a coma for nearly a month and suffered injuries to his brain's speech centers, now helps his mom keep an eye out for distracted drivers.

"Every single time I see a person on a cell phone, I say 'A person on a cell phone!' I just, like, scream it out," he said Friday.

Drivers who cut in line at the ferry terminal also could get a $101 ticket and be sent to the back of the line, under another measure the governor signed Friday. The ferry-line law takes effect in July.

A fourth driving-related bill approved by Gregoire takes aim at dangerous commercial vehicles, including increased penalties for multiple safety violations.

The bill was inspired by two scientists who were killed in 2005 when a load of logs spilled from a speeding, overweight truck near Humptulips.