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The cell connection

The reaction come January of Washingtonians to the new cell phone law – the impending ban on hand-held cell phones while driving – will be an interesting political metric.

To what extent do Washingtonians comply with, ignore, or rebel against the law? To what extent will it be vigorously enforced (recognizing that violations will not be primary offenses)? It’ll be a monitorable metric: California’s similar law will go into effect at the same time.

To the extent people are aggravated by the new retriction (favorable feelings by supporters likely being less apparent, since the irritant activity simply won’t be much visible), to what extent could it be a political liability for the Democratic legislature and Governor Christine Gregoire, who is expected to sign the bill and then face re-election 11 months after it goes into effect?

A speculation: That may be somewhat out of the hands of the governor and legislature, and relate more to how law enforcement chooses to enforce it, and what sort of news stories develop out of the enforcement. A hard-edged enforcement may feed rebellion.

On the other hand, when a similar law took effect in Connecticut in 2005, police took a light hand at least for a while, and chose carefully their first fined: “a 23-year-old driver after he admitted he was operating his cell phone when he crashed into a utility pole just hours after the law went into effect.” Few Connecticut voters probably were upset . . .

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