Texting while driving now illegal in W.Va.
by Jazz Clark
Sunday, July 1, a new law went into effect making texting while driving a primary offense under the “Distracted Driver” law.
Talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device is now a secondary offense but will become primary on July 1, 2013.
Fines for the ban start at $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second and $300 for third and subsequent offenses. Third offenses and beyond can also put three points on your license.
Only five states in the United States have escaped at least a partial ban so far. West Virginia is the 36th to issue a complete ban.
“Governor Tomblin and the state legislature are sending a strong public safety message to all West Virginians by enacting this tough texting and hand-held cell phone ban into law,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press release. “One text or call could wreck it all. Too many lives have been senselessly lost on our nation’s roads due to the epidemic of distracted driving.”
Texting has been proven to be a major contributor to crashes.
Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%, said research done at Carnegie Mellon University.
According to studies done by the U.S. Department of Transportation, text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.
Local authorities understand, however, that people and their phones are not easily parted.
While Morgan County Sheriff Vince Shambaugh can’t speak for town or state police, his department wants to give ample time for people to get their feet wet and start breaking the habit of texting before stepping up citations.
Members of the Sheriff’s Office will comply to this law even though they are exempt by the use of hands-free devices.
“It’s about safety,” West Virginia State Police Sgt. Michael Baylous told The State Journal. “We’re using a common sense approach, and we’re using discretion. So we’re not going to be out there looking to slap the hands of everybody we see using a phone while they’re driving, but then again, it’s a safety issue.”
Part of the new law includes installing signs at borders urging motorists to stow their cell phones. In Maryland, talking while driving is already illegal.