W.S.P. "rewrites the book" on hands free texting - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

W.S.P. "rewrites the book" on hands free texting

OLYMPIA, Wash. - The Washington State Patrol has re-written its Regulation Manual to prohibit state troopers from texting while driving, and requiring that they use hand-free devices if they must speak on a cell phone while at the wheel.

Washington's cell phone law exempts police officers from the hands-free requirement. But WSP Chief John Batiste believes that even highly trained professional drivers should focus on the task at hand.

"When you're driving, you need to be driving," Batiste said. "Although the law provides us an exemption, I believe we should set a good example for the motoring public." From the time they are hired, troopers are drilled in the importance of safe driving.

"Using a hands-free device is a good idea for everyone, including troopers," Batiste added. "Every driver has an obligation to be at their best while behind the wheel."

Batiste supports the use of cell phones by employees because WSP's radio system is unencrypted and can be monitored. Some sensitive conversations are more appropriate for the telephone.

Additionally, many of the agency's radio channels are very busy. Shifting non- emergency police business to cell phones can reduce radio traffic and delay the need for expensive upgrades.

The agency is providing hands-free devices to employees who have agency- issued phones. Those are mostly supervisors and employees in highly specialized positions.

The manual update was published March 31, and employees are in the process of reading and acknowledging it. The process is routine, as policies or procedures can be updated several times each year.

 

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