Distracted Driving Laws in West Virginia

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Distracted driving is nothing new in the United States or West Virginia. However, it is a growing concern thanks to the rise of smartphone technology and the interconnectedness of our lives. Just like it is hard to go to a family gathering without everyone being on their phones, it is just as hard to drive on the roadway without seeing a driver looking at the screen – while they are driving.

However, drivers with their eyes glued to their phone screens may find themselves in trouble with law enforcement. Today, we want to talk about the laws about distracted driving in West Virginia as well as the consequences of these actions.

West Virginia distracted driving laws

West Virginia quickly recognized that cell phones were a contributing factor to distracted driving and enacted laws to prevent certain driving behaviors.

  • Texting while driving is illegal in West Virginia.
  • Drivers are banned from using handheld phones while driving.
  • Drivers under 18 years of age, those who have a permit, or an intermediate license cannot use any type of wireless communication device while driving. This includes looking at the screen of a device in any way as well as making a phone call.

There are exceptions to these rules. Public safety officials may use electronic devices during the course of their official duties. Civilians may report traffic accidents, fires, or roadway hazards.

Drivers over the age of 18 who have a regular driver’s license may talk on the phone with a hands-free device.

The penalties for breaking West Virginia’s distracted driving laws are as follows:

  • First offense – $100 fine
  • Second offense – $200 fine
  • Third offense – $300 fine

On the third and any subsequent offense, three points are added to the driver’s license. Not only will this cost you in fines, but you could face a suspended license as well as higher insurance rates. West Virginia law enforcement officers cite hundreds of people each month for distracted driving.

The consequences of distracted driving

Fines and license points are not the only consequences of distracted driving. When you take your eyes off the roadway to look at a phone screen, you might as well be closing your eyes and hoping for the best.

  • Distracted driving = closing your eyes behind the wheel
  • Looking at your phone for five seconds while driving at 55 mph is like closing your eyes for the entire length of a football field.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA), distracted driving killed 3,166 people and injured nearly 400,000 people on US roadways in 2017. The NHSTA defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system.”

Distracted driving is a leading cause of single-vehicle crashes. During a recent reporting year, over half of all crash fatalities in West Virginia were the result of single-vehicle incidents.

We also want to point out that bicyclists and pedestrians also put their lives on the line when they use their electronic devices in and around the roadways. Many of these already vulnerable roadway users do not pay attention to their surroundings and can inadvertently cross into the path of a vehicle. Every single person in and around West Virginia roadways needs to focus on what is going on around them.