The Times West Virginian


June 2, 2013

Is distracted driving in state decreasing?

West Virginia phased in its distracted driving ban once the landmark bill passed last year.

In 2012, lawmakers passed and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law a ban on texting while driving, which took effect immediately, and a ban on talking on a cell phone while driving, which becomes a primary offense within days.

The lag in time between the full effective date of the two new rules? It was a chance to get drivers in the Mountain State accustomed to the changes.

“This last year, it’s been more about education and awareness,” Department of Motor Vehicles spokeswoman Natalie Harvey told the Charleston Gazette. “But the law is there for a reason, and police are certainly enforcing it.

“Sometimes, just having the law in place is enough to change the behavior,” Harvey told the newspaper. “It’s important to always have your eyes on the road. We’re in the business of saving lives and reducing injuries.”

The number of convictions within the past year on the texting ban seem minimal. According to DMV records, there have been 125 convictions since the texting ban took affect some 10 months ago. And of course, for those 125 convictions, there were probably many, many more citations written for the offense but were dropped for one reason or another.

But we still see it, don’t we? The tell-tale signs of a texting driver? The bright light coming from an otherwise dark car we’re following. The drift. The jerk back into alignment with the road. The 10-second delay at stop lights while someone gets a text or two in.

Those drivers are taking an expensive chance typing out a text while behind the wheel of a car. If they’re caught, they face fines of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second and $300 for any further offenses. And by your third strike, you can start losing points against your license.

Talking on the phone is against the law, too. But to date it’s been a secondary offense. That means that an officer cannot pull you over solely for using a cellphone while driving, but can cite you for the action if they’ve pulled you over for another reason — speeding, erratic driving, failure to maintain control, et cetera.

Sgt. Michael Baylous, the public affairs officer for the West Virginia State Police, told the Gazette that the laws are primarily deterrents, meaning that because there is a law on the books, most are apt to follow it. While he said he has seen a sharp decline in the number of texting drivers, there sure hasn’t been a decrease in cellphone use while operating a car.

But there’s hope that once it becomes a primary offense, that will change.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Baylous said. “Anything that enhances highway safety, we’re for it.”

So since that step quickly approaches, we thought we’d ask our online readers how effective the new primary offense law will be for using a cellphone while driving. On our online poll question, which can be found each week at, we asked, “The distracted driving ban will fully go into effect within weeks, banning drivers from using cellphones without hands-free devices. How effective will it be.”

• Bluetooths are flying off the shelves. People will take it seriously — 7.07 percent

• I’m sure most drivers will obey the law, but there will always be a few — 40.4 percent

• Right, because the texting ban has been soooo successful — 52.53 percent

We’re hoping for positives here, considering that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to get into an accident than someone who is fully paying attention to the road. And really, there’s nothing to say that is that important that it cannot wait until you safely pull over or reach your destination.

This week, let’s talk about the ruling out of U.S. Bankruptcy Court that will allow Patriot Coal to change provisions in its agreements with the United Mine Workers of America on health care benefits and wages. What’s the next step?

Log on. Vote. Email me or respond online.

Misty Poe

Managing Editor


Text Only
  • COLUMN: Freedom of Information — if you can pay

    Several years ago, I made a Freedom of Information request to a local government agency. Within the five business days, as required by law, a packet of information was delivered to the office. I expected a bill, as most government offices have a charge that ranges from 25 cents to $1.25 per page for copies of the documents we request.

    April 20, 2014

  • The reassuring spirit of Easter: One of new hope and beginnings

    During the sub-zero and snow-filled months of winter, we maintained a spirit of hope that spring was on the way. It has now become a reality as all nature stretches and yawns and awakens once more to a new beginning. The fragrance of spring awakens our waiting nostrils, the budding beauty of new life brightens our eyes, and the reassuring idea of renewal stimulates our minds.

    April 20, 2014

  • Unsung heroes handling calls in emergencies are appreciated

    Thankfully, we live in a community where help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, just by dialing three numbers — 9-1-1.
    During this week, which is recognized as National Public Safety Tele-Communicator’s Week nationwide, we need to remember that on the other end of that line are the men and women here in this county who are always there in case of accident, crimes, medical emergencies and any other catastrophic event.

    April 18, 2014

  • Message to ‘buckle up and park the phone’ is saving lives

    A figure that we haven’t seen that much in recent years is the highway death toll for a given period.
    Is the death toll up, down or just about the same as it was?
    The West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program has announced there were 325 highway fatalities in 2013, the second-lowest number on record.

    April 17, 2014

  • State native Burwell can ‘deliver results’ as Health and Human Services secretary

    Sylvia Mathews Burwell might not be a name with which most people are immediately familiar.
    For the past year, she has run the budget office under President Barack Obama.
    Prior to that, she served as president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program and later the Wal-Mart Foundation.

    April 16, 2014

  • Marion scores well in recent health report but could do better

    When it comes to area-wide studies, especially on health, there’s usually good news and bad news.
    So was the recent report on the health of America’s counties released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently. The nationwide county study evaluated health outcomes and health factors, and ranked counties accordingly.

    April 13, 2014

  • COLUMN: ‘Instant’ news not always reliable

    That little word has a pretty big meaning. With origins that date back to the 15th century, it means urgent, current, immediate.
    But think about how that word has developed over the past few decades.
    Instant pudding. Instead of slaving over a hot stove for a few minutes, you can now pour cold milk and with a bit of stirring, instant pudding!

    April 13, 2014

  • Decision to be an organ donor can save lives

    Chelsea Clair watched as her father died waiting for a bone marrow transplant.
    So when she met Kyle Froelich at a car show in 2009 and heard about his struggles to find a kidney that would match his unique needs, she never hesitated to offer hers to the man she just met.

    April 11, 2014

  • Volunteers continue to have priceless impact on community

    Chances are, you know someone who volunteers. Perhaps you’re a volunteer yourself.
    Marion County is full of volunteers.
    They read to our youth.
    They assist nonprofit agencies.
    They serve on boards and committees.
    And in 2013, they spent a day picking up nearly 10 tons of garbage that had been tossed out on public property around Marion County.

    April 10, 2014

  • Proposed school calendar lives up to letter and spirit of law

    West Virginia state law requires that students be in a classroom for 180 days.

    April 9, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads