by Brandon Naff
Cell phones do much more than call.
They can send and receive pictures and videos. They can connect to the Internet at speeds fast enough to view videos on YouTube or open a spreadsheet from an e-mail inbox.
One thing they can’t do: tell those behind the wheel to stop using them.
That task was up to Washington State Senate Bill 6345, which makes it a primary offense to talk on a cell phone while driving.
The exact wording in Section Three, lines 26-28, says: “…a person operating a moving motor vehicle while holding a wireless communications device to his or her ear is guilty of a traffic infraction.”
However, there are exceptions.
Those using hearing aids who are unable to use hands-free devices, and people using a hands-free device are in the clear. You may also use your phone to “report illegal activity,” “summon medical or other emergency help,” or to “prevent injury to a person or property.”
The bill passed both the House and Senate and landed on Christine Gregoire’s desk on March 26, 2010. She signed the bill into law, effective June 6, 2010.
Students at Whatcom Community College have differing opinions on the issue.
Some felt hostile about the bill.
“It’s crap because handsets are similar enough to using your phone and everyone uses them while driving anyway,” said Reid McEvoy, 20, who did, however, feel that the law “might prevent some accidents.”
“It’s silly,” Said Alec Santiago, 19. “If anything, people drive slower and more cautiously when they are on the phone. I think it needs to be on a case-by-case basis, though I don’t think police officers should be able to pull someone over just for using a cell phone.”
Others, like Andrea Farred, 21, think that the bill will be highly beneficial.
“I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “I mean, there are so many accidents or ‘almost accidents’ that have occurred because people are distracted by their cell phones.”
She added that hands-free devices are “still a distraction because you have to pick up your phone and dial or search for a number.”
Janelle Macri, 19, agreed. “The inconvenience of having to pull over to talk on the phone is worth the potential lives saved and accidents avoided,” she said.
Macri liked the idea of a hand-free provision, however, adding that they “are easy to use and will make the roads safer without giving up talking on a cell phone completely.”
Some see a flawed reasoning in the provision that allows hands-free devices to be used. “I think it’s ridiculous because you have to be ‘hands-free,’” said Makaila MacLean, 19. “But if you drive a manual your hand will never be free anyway.”
The fine for talking on a cell phone while driving will be a fairly typical one of $124.