Traffic safety laws change as soon as you cross state lines. If you live in or frequently travel through the state of West Virginia, periodically review current safety laws. Over time, laws shift and expand. Drivers who know applicable laws drive more confidently and know how to protect their rights in the event of an accident.
Basic Safety Laws in West Virginia
Some of the most basic laws roadway travelers should remember include:
- Seat belt laws, West Virginia Code 17C-15-49. Drivers, front-seat passengers, and children under age 18 must all wear seat belts while traveling in passenger vehicles. The state doesn’t impose a seat belt requirement on adults (over age 18) who travel in the back seat of a vehicle.
- Car seat laws, West Virginia Code §17C-15-46. All children under the age of 8 must use a federally approved child safety device (except for children under age 8 who are at least 4’9” tall). A child 4’9” or taller may wear a traditional safety belt.
- Mobile device laws, West Virginia Code §17C-14-15. Drivers may not use any mobile device to text, view data, play games, read or create emails, or make handheld calls while operating a motor vehicle. Drivers may use hands-free devices on the roadways and use a handheld device to activate/deactivate hands-free devices, dial a phone number, or handle a GPS system. We highly recommend pulling over to engage in any potentially distracting activity. While law enforcement may not cite drivers for certain activities, any distraction may constitute negligent driving in a civil claim.
- Minimum insurance laws. All drivers must maintain an active liability policy with coverage for $25,000 in per person bodily injury, $50,000 in per accident bodily injury, and $25,000 for property damage. Unlike other states, West Virginia also requires residents to carry uninsured motorist coverage that matches liability coverage. In the event of an accident involving a driver without insurance, uninsured motorist coverage provides drivers and passengers with a means for recovery.
- Headlight laws. All motor vehicles traveling on West Virginia roads must feature two front-facing headlights. The state requires passenger vehicle drivers to turn on their headlights from sunset until sunrise, when visibility dips under 500 feet, and in inclement weather. School buses and motorcycles must use headlights at all times.
- Unattended vehicles, children, and pets. If you leave your vehicle running to warm up or stay cool, you could face up to a $100 fine in West Virginia. While no specific law addresses leaving children and pets unattended, doing so may fall under child endangerment laws. As a best practice, we recommend never leaving a running vehicle unattended and never leaving children or pets unattended in any vehicle. Local jurisdictions may enforce stricter statutes.
Tips for Staying Safe on West Virginia Roadways
As a driver in West Virginia, some simple driving tips will keep you safe and compliant with local laws. Use these tips in our state and everywhere else you drive:
- Avoid distractions. Laws on cell phone use vary in different states and local jurisdictions. To stay safe, avoid all distractions on the roadway, especially texting and driving. Pull over if you need to check your social media app or make a quick phone call.
- Watch for other negligent drivers. Many accidents involve one cautious and one reckless driver. Practice defensive driving to protect yourself from reckless, distracted, or drunk drivers.
- Keep an eye on the weather and current traffic patterns. Use your GPS system, state alerts, and weather predictions to choose the safest routes to your destination. In addition to staying safe, this habit may also shorten your travel time.
Safety laws are designed to keep you safe – not to inconvenience or annoy you. Follow them to reduce the likelihood of an accident and to protect your right to recovery from insurance or a negligent driver. If you were involved in an accident caused by a negligent driver, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and should consult with a knowledgeable West Virginia car accident lawyer to learn more about your legal options.