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Don’t read this while driving: Distracted driving ticket numbers are in

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Craig Sailor, The News Tribune

Washington’s new distracted driving law went into effect July 23 but the Washington State Patrol is handing out fewer citations.

It’s not because drivers are behaving better.

From July 23 to July 29, troopers issued 27 citations compared to 118 citations for the week just prior to the law taking effect.

However, troopers gave 310 warnings during the first week of the law compared to 155 the previous week.  The reason: The State Patrol is giving drivers a six-month “grace” period.

Troopers are operating in an education mode rather than a citation mode until January, according to the State Patrol.

That doesn’t mean drivers get a free pass, the State Patrol said.

“If troopers observe distracted driving violations coupled with other dangerous driving behaviors, or if you’ve already received a warning about the new law, you run the risk of getting a ticket,” the State Patrol said in a news release.

The law bans using cellphones, tablets, laptops and video games while driving.

Use of those devices while driving will now be considered a primary offense. Fines will start at $136 and could reach $234. Violations will be reported to insurance companies.

Other behavior that interferes with safe driving, such as grooming, smoking, eating or reading, could result in a $99 ticket if a driver is pulled over for another offense.

Fatalities in the state caused by distracted driving increased 32 percent from 2014-2015, according to the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

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