Texting ban to be enforced July 1
Published: Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 06:06
As of July 1, texting while driving will become a primary offense in the state of West Virginia. This means individuals caught texting behind the wheel can be pulled over and cited for it.
Before July 1, texting while driving was a secondary offense, meaning individuals could not get cited for the act unless they were pulled over for some other offense first.
Now, the first offense is automatically a $100 fine. This fine will increase by $100 for each subsequent violation. Three points will also be assessed against driver’s licenses on the third and subsequent violations.
Governor Earl R. Tomblin signed this new bill into law April 3. The law also confirms that talking on the phone is a secondary offense and will become a primary offense July 1, 2013.
Before the ban went into effect, the only drivers banned from texting while driving in West Virginia were novice drivers with a Level 1 or Level 2 status.
In October 2009, Obama signed a piece of legislation that made texting while driving illegal for federal employees, which set an example for many states to follow.
The passing of this new law made West Virginia the 36th state to ban texting while driving. Some say West Virginia is late compared to other states who have passed similar bans months, even years, ago.
"The law in New Jersey bans cell phones all together, so I am used to this law and I rarely hear of any texting and driving incidents," said Alex Russomano, WVU student and New Jersey resident. "I’m glad West Virginia is taking control to fix such a huge problem that this country is facing."
This bill requires the Division of Highways to post signs on interstates and major highways to alert motorists of the ban.
Some people believe the ban is factually supported. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports roughly 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involve distracted driving.
"I think that the ban is a good idea because texting while driving can be a big distraction and can possibly cause a fatal accident," said Brooke Peake, WVU student and N.C. resident. "North Carolina has a ban, so I’m used to it. I stay off my phone while I’m driving and most of my friends do, too."
Florida, South Carolina, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona and Hawaii are the only remaining states with no texting and driving laws in place. The state of Washington was the first state to ban texting while driving May 11, 2007.
Some states have even gone so far as to ban texting while walking in large metropolitan areas.
In West Virginia, Kanawha County delegate Nancy Peoples called for distracted driving legislation in West Virginia, House Bill 4047 in 2008, but the bill has failed in the House and the Senate multiple times.
Some people think the ban is a good idea but will fail in enforcement.
"I think the ban will be a good thing, but texting and driving will still happen," said Alan Rusniak, WVU student and Pa. resident. "It’s like the seat belt laws; you should follow it, but people still won’t."
In 2009, nearly 500 accidents in West Virginia were linked to distracted driving caused by an electronic device. However, there are many people who feel talking on the phone is less distracting than texting and should still be allowed.
"I think that the ban on texting is reasonable and may really help cut back on accidents, but I do not believe talking on the phone should be banned," said Amber Seamann, WVU student. "I think it’s no more distracting than the radio or having a friend talking in the car."
Members of the University Police have supported the ban.
"I believe it will make campus safer," said Major Robin Levelle of the West Virginia University Police. "I think we’ve all used our phones while sitting in traffic or whatever, and to me, it’s very dangerous, so that change in the law will make a big difference here at WVU."
Others have said they understand the risks involved with texting behind the wheel.
"Sometimes, I do text and drive," said Trinity Gray, WVU student. "But, when you think about it, it is distracting and really does impair your driving. "
According to Major Levelle, the ban won’t be too difficult to control at WVU because there are only about five to six miles of roadway on campus. When new students come in, the University Police meet with the incoming students here at WVU and speak about crime prevention on campus. According to Levelle, this will serve as an opportunity to inform students about the reasoning behind the ban.
"I’m looking at this as an educational thing more than anything," said Levelle. "We may set up a small roadway checkpoint from time to time and remind students. The whole thing is about education and safety, not just to write tickets."
Many citizens question, though, if the law will really be enforced or followed.
"I think the law is well-intended, but I doubt it will really do much to the problem," said Josh Burka, a WVU Student. "Lots of people will still go against it, just like any other law."
Chris Sommers, a WVU student, also notices in his hometown in Ohio, the ban that has already been in place is not necessarily enforced.
"As a resident in Ohio, I’ve noticed that cops aren’t really that adamant about pulling over people for texting or really using their phones," Sommers said.
"Cops aren’t really taking notice to it or don’t really care. Since no one is really acting upon it, people don’t really see it as a law and will continue to do whatever they want on the road while driving."
Governor Tomblin is encouraging citizens to sign his new Safe Driver Pledge, committing to use only hands-free devices while driving. You can visit go.wv.gov/pledge to make the commitment and read more on the ban.