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
  • State must convince parents, schools about benefits of Common Core

    It’s always nice to have a little bit of background information before diving into something new.
    So we have to agree with West Virginia Board of Education president Gayle Manchin when she says the state should have done a better job of explaining Common Core standards when they were first introduced.
    Those standards, part of a national educational initiative that sets learning goals designed to prepare students in kindergarten through 12th grade for college and career, will be fully implemented in every West Virginia school district next month.

    July 30, 2014

  • Time is now for Tomblin to support King Coal Highway

    U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., is asking Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to add the King Coal Highway project to West Virginia’s six-year highway improvement plan. It is a logical request, and one that Tomblin should act promptly on.

    July 29, 2014

  • United effort to keep NASA in Fairmont is essential project

    The high-technology sector is obviously vital to the economy of North Central West Virginia.
    That’s why a strong, united effort to keep the NASA Independent Verification and Validation Program in Fairmont is absolutely essential.

    July 27, 2014

  • COLUMN: Calling all readers: Be heard

    I love to talk to readers.
    I love to hear concerns they have about stories we’ve written, things they think should be included in the newspaper and things they think shouldn’t be.

    July 27, 2014

  • Korean War veterans are deserving of a memorial

    NEEDED: A total of $10,000 for the Korean War Memorial this year.
    And a good man has been placed in charge of the funding. Charlie Reese, former president of the Marion County Chamber of Commerce, is now director of the Marion County Development Office. His task was to make a recommendation as to what steps are necessary to keep the project moving.

    July 25, 2014

  • Roll up your sleeves, give blood and you can save lives

    It takes up to 100 units of blood to save the life of someone who sustains life-threatening injuries in a vehicle accident.
    We’re hoping that the number of people who come to Fairmont Senior High School on Friday for and American Red Cross blood drive will exceed that amount.

    July 24, 2014

  • Vehicles and motorcycles must share the road safely

    The days are long. The weather is superb. There’s plenty of leisure time in these lazy days of summer.
    It’s the perfect time to take a long motorcycle ride.
    It’s also the perfect opportunity for us to take the time to remind not only riders but drivers of the need to share the road. And we feel compelled to mention it because just within the month of July, there have been two motorcycle-versus-car accidents within the City of Fairmont alone — one with severe injuries sustained by the motorcyclist and the other with less serious injury.

    July 23, 2014

  • Too many taking too few steps to protect selves from skin cancer

    July 22, 2014

  • Distracted driving: It isn’t worth fine or a life

    Today marks the day that police agencies from six states are joining forces to crack down on one thing — distracted driving.
    And they will focus on that traffic violation for a solid week, with the stepped-up effort to curb distracted driving wrapping up on Saturday, July 26.

    July 20, 2014

  • COLUMN: Are we people watchers or people judgers?

    Let me tell you about my little friend Robby. Well, actually, it’s more about his family and especially his mom. I didn’t get her name. I heard Robby’s name quite a bit, though, during a trip home from Birmingham, Alabama.
    I noticed the family in the Birmingham airport immediately. They were just the kind of family you’d notice.

    July 20, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Politics
House Ads