Distracted driving has existed since automobiles were invented, but the issue of distracted driving has become a more serious problem in recent years, especially since the introduction of mobile devices into our everyday lives. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, an estimated 660,000 drivers are either using cell phones or other communication devices while behind the wheel.
Because of the growing problem of distracted driving and the growing number of auto accidents tied to distracted driving, many states and municipalities have passed distracted driving laws over the last decade. In this post, we will take a closer look at West Virginia;s distracted driving laws.
West Virginia State Distracted Driving Laws
West Virginia has some of the strictest mobile device distracted driving laws in the country. While some states only ban certain mobile device actions for young or novice drivers, West Virginia bans cell phone use for drivers of all ages:
- Drivers of all ages are banned from talking on cell phones while operating a vehicle.
- Drivers of all ages are banned from texting while operating a vehicle.
- Drivers are allowed to talk on a cell phone while using a hands-free device, such as an earpiece or onboard speaker.
- School bus drivers are banned from using mobile devices while operating a bus.
Beginning on July 1, 2013, the above cell phone laws became primary offenses. This means that drivers can be pulled over and ticketed by authorities simply for breaking these laws – they do not have to first break some other moving violation (such as running a stop sign or making an illegal turn).
Federal Distracted Driving Laws for Commercial Drivers
Commercial drivers, such as tractor-trailer drivers and bus drivers, must follow federal distracted driving laws when traveling in West Virginia:
- Drivers are prohibited from talking or texting on mobile devices while operating a commercial vehicle.
- Drivers must use a hands-free device to speaking on a cell phone.
- Drivers must use either voice commands or a single button to begin, end, or answer calls.
- Motor carriers may be fined if they require or condone illegal mobile device use while driving.
Penalties for Distracted Driving Offenses in West Virginia
Your first ticket for distracted driving is $100. A ticket for a second distracted driver offense is $200, while a ticket for a third and all subsequent offenses is $300. Your third and subsequent offenses also result in three demerit points on your license.
Commercial drivers face heavier federal fines and more serious consequences for distracted driving violations. A driver could be fined $2,500 for a first offense, and lose his or her commercial license for subsequent offenses. Motor carriers can face up to $11,000 in fines for allowing mobile device use among their employees.
Effectiveness of West Virginia Distracted Driving Laws
The Division of Motor Vehicles announced in 2015 that the 2013 distracted driving laws had led to a significant 18 percent decrease in driver fatalities across West Virginia over the 2014 calendar year.
DMV Commissioner Pat Reed stated that the distracted driving legislation, paired with a distracted driving awareness campaign, had positively changed driver behavior and prevented deadly crashes.