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Originally published April 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 18, 2007 at 1:21 PM

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Legislature 2007

House sends Gregoire ban on text messaging while driving

Washington drivers: Don't even think about reading, writing or sending a text message while behind the wheel. It could cost you $101. The state House passed...

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington drivers: Don't even think about reading, writing or sending a text message while behind the wheel. It could cost you $101.

The state House passed a measure banning text messaging while driving on a 90-8 vote Tuesday after signing off on Senate changes. The bill now heads to Gov. Christine Gregoire, who is expected to sign it into law.

"This is absolutely dangerous behavior," said Rep. Joyce McDonald, R-Puyallup, bill sponsor. "Driving while text messaging is a lethal combination."

The bill makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers could receive a ticket only if pulled over for a primary offense such as speeding or running a red light.

A ticket will not become part of a driver's record, and dialing a phone is not considered text messaging. The measure exempts transit and emergency-vehicle personnel, as well as anyone who is text messaging to report illegal activity or summon emergency help.

A measure requiring drivers to use hands-free devices when talking on cellphones also is expected to be signed by Gregoire.

The texting offense would be a traffic infraction, typically carrying a $101 fine.

McDonald said she hoped a law would bring awareness to drivers so that they will stay focused on driving.

"Sometimes we just need to tell people, 'Don't do it; it's against the law,' " she said. "If we don't say it's wrong, people assume it's right, even when it isn't. Even when they know better."

Also Tuesday, the House passed the following bills after signing off on Senate changes. They now head to the governor:

• On a 98-0 vote, a measure creating a scientific-research account to pay for research programs and projects involving Puget Sound. The measure is House Bill 1656.

• On a 96-2 vote, a measure creating several programs to improve math and science education in the state. The measure is House Bill 1906.

• On an 85-13 vote, a measure increasing the homestead exemption against creditors from $40,000 to $125,000. The laws are to help protect family homes threatened by legal action for debt. The measure is House Bill 1805.

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