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Cell phone law covers most but not all

Since July 1, 2008, drivers in Washington state have been prohibited from using cell phones while driving.

Supporters of the new law say cell phone use in vehicles have contributed to accidents and other mishaps on Washington roadways. The prevailing thought is that holding a communications device while driving increases the driver's chances of becoming involved in a traffic mishap.

That all ended July 1 when the new law took effect. Even so, people shouldn't be surprised to see some people still using cell phones while driving.

The most common sites will probably involve emergency vehicles, which are exempt from the new law.

Sunnyside Fire Chief Aaron Markham said there are times when emergency personnel need to obtain pertinent information that they can't relay over the radio due to people listening in. He also said the phones are needed to sometimes check on other available resources or when in-depth conversations need to be conducted. Usually conversations over the radio are kept short to keep from tying up the airwaves.

Charlotte Hinderlider, administrative assistant to the Sunnyside Police Chief, said blue tooth headsets can sometimes interfere with the police radio.

A blue tooth is an ear piece a person can wear that allows the person to talk on their cell phone hands free.

Using a wireless communications device in hand free mode is the only legal way for a citizen in Washington to use a cell phone while driving.

Others, besides emergency personnel, allowed to use hand held cell phones are tow truck drivers responding to a disabled vehicle.

Civilian drivers can use the hand held device if they are reporting illegal activity, summoning medical or other emergency help, calling to prevent injury to a person or property and anyone who uses a hearing aid.

Enforcement of this law can only be done as a secondary action after a driver has been detained on another suspected violation.

Infractions that result from the use of cell phone will not become part of the driver's record. Also, the finding will not be made available to insurance companies or employers.

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