CHARLESTON — As of July 1, 2013, texting while driving will become a primary offense in the state of West Virginia. This means drivers caught texting behind the wheel can be pulled over and cited for it.
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.
However, did West Virginia fail to properly regulate “distracted driving”?
With the proliferation of phones that access the Internet, what about “webbing while driving” or watching a portable CD player or other electronic devices while driving?
Webbing while driving is a fast-growing problem, with nearly half of drivers younger than 30 reporting they use the Web while driving, according to a survey recently released by State Farm Insurance.
“While the safety community is appropriately working to reduce texting while driving, we must also be concerned about the growing use of multiple mobile Web services while driving,” said Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm Insurance Company.
In a survey of 1,000 drivers between the ages of 18 and 29, State Farm found 48 percent of them admitted to accessing the Internet while driving in 2012, compared to 29 percent in 2009.
Among the drivers surveyed, 43 percent, compared to 32 percent in 2009, said they check their email while driving.
Social networks also were among the biggest distractions, with 36 percent of the drivers surveyed saying they read social media networks while driving; it was 21 percent in 2009. Thirty percent, compared to 20 percent in 2009, said they’d updated information on social media while driving.
Of those polled, 72 percent said they strongly agreed with laws prohibiting webbing while driving.
However, does West Virginia’s new law just focus in on texting while driving and talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving?
The law in New Jersey bans cell phones all together.
Does West Virginia’s new law address “webbing while driving”?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports roughly 80 percent of all crashes and 65 percent of near crashes involve distracted driving.
North Carolina has a ban on distracted driving as well.
Florida, South Carolina, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona and Hawaii are the only remaining states with no texting and driving laws in place. Some states have even gone so far as to ban texting while walking in large metropolitan areas.
In 2009, nearly 500 accidents in West Virginia were linked to distracted driving caused by an electronic device
Governor Tomblin is encouraging citizens to sign his new Safe Driver Pledge, committing to use only hands-free devices while driving. You can visit the Web site at go.wv.gov/pledge to make the commitment and read more on the ban.