Washington has joined four other states and the District of Columbia in banning the use of handheld cell phones while driving.
Since July 1, it has been illegal for drivers in Washington State to talk on a cell phone unless they are using a hands-free device. Drivers are exempt in some situations, including emergencies.
A law banning text-massaging while driving took effect Jan. 1.
Using a handheld phone while driving in Washington State is a secondary offense. That means police must pull drivers over for something else first — such as speeding or an illegal lane change.
Violators could be fined $124.
Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the cell phone and text messaging measures into law in May 2007.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and the District of Columbia also restrict motorists to hands-free devices. In these jurisdictions, the laws are all primary enforcement — an officer may ticket a driver for using a handheld cell phone while driving without any other traffic offense taking place.
No U.S. state completely bans all cell phone use, although some states restrict cell phone use by novice drivers.