Get familiar with new W.Va. laws regulating cell-phone use while driving
Published: Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 00:08
With the ongoing advances in technology – it seems just about everyone owns a cell phone, smart phone or other gadget – West Virginia lawmakers believed it was time to address the safety risks these devices can pose.
Drivers who take their hands off the wheel to text or look away from the road to read a message are not only putting themselves at risk for an accident. If they cross the center line or lose control, other motoristson the road and pedestrians are in danger.
There are many other distractions that can pose hazards, such as eating while driving, changing a radio station or even breaking up an argument between two children in the back seat. The sheer number of motorists who are now talking and texting while driving makes this a very real safety issue.
A newly enacted legislation in West Virginia addresses texting while driving as a traffic offense. It makes texting a primary offense, which means police are able to give a ticket if the driver is using an "electronic communication device" while driving without needing any other reason to initiate a traffic stop.
What exactly are considered electronic communication devices? Here in West Virginia, it can be a cellular telephone, personal digital assistant, electronic device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game or portable computing device.
Motorists ticketed and found guilty for this offense while in West Virginia shall be fined $100 on first offense. The fine doubles to $200 for a second offense and rises to $300 for third and subsequent citations. No court cost or other fees can be collected for the violation.
Everyone needs to know that written within the new code 17C-14-15 is a subsection that says:
"Driving or operating a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while using a cellular phone or other electronic communication device without hands-free equipment shall now be enforced as a secondary offense beginning on July 1, 2012, and will automatically become a primary offense as of July 1, 2013."
For now, this means when a motorist is stopped for another offense and found to be using a cell phone or other electronic communication device without hands-free equipment, the motorist can be issued a citation for the secondary violation. Beginning July 1, 2013, the offense will become primary meaning that talking on the phone while driving, by itself, is sufficient cause to warrant a traffic stop. So start looking for ways to become hands-free now. Many newer model vehicles are already equipped for hands-free phone conversations. However, there are also gadgets available at discount stores, on the internet and from car dealerships that are just as effective.
University Police have already issued several citations for violating these new laws during the past week.
It’s important to note that the law applies even if you’re at a traffic light or stop sign.
The Mountain State already has a law that bans any wireless device use by drivers under age 18 with a learner’s permit or intermediate license. To find more information on texting and driving or distracted driving laws, visit the following web site: http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.
For more information on this or other safety topics, contact the West Virginia University Police Department at 304-293-COPS, or visit our website at http://police.wvu.edu.