The time is up.
The State of West Virginia gave its residents a year grace period to talk on their phones while driving. Well, it wasn’t legal, but it was a secondary offense. An officer could pull you over for speeding or some other moving violation and cite you for talking on your cellphone. But they couldn’t pull you over solely for the offense.
It was intended to give drivers the opportunity to train themselves to drive without using their cellphones or purchase hands-free devices.
But as of July 1, the time was up. Talking on your cellphone became a primary offense.
And still we see people chatting away on their cellphones on highways, at intersections, cruising down the street. You see, because your eyes are drawn to the offense.
But we wanted a little hard data to show just how many people were talking on their cellphones.
So we sent our reporters to the streets to do a little investigative journalism. We identified four busy intersections in the county and asked each reporter to carefully observe traffic in one lane for a one-hour period, count the number of cars that passed and make a notation of each “distracted” driver.
Scientific? Probably not. But we believe it gives a good sample to start from.
During the morning rush hour, a reporter was stationed at Water and Buffalo streets in Mannington. Of the 232 drivers who passed by, 32 of them, or 15 percent, were on their phones without a hands-free device.
At lunchtime, a reporter watched the intersection of Fairmont Avenue and Seventh Street in Fairmont. Out of the 586 drivers who passed our reporter, 36 of them were talking or texting while driving, totaling about 6 percent.
The East Side fared a little better. During the evening rush hour, a reporter counted 394 cars that passed by with 17 drivers on their phones, or 4 percent, at the intersection of Morgantown and East Park avenues.
White Hall drivers had the best record with 3 percent of distracted drivers during the evening rush hour at the intersection of U.S. 250 and the access road to Walmart. Out of the 664 cars that passed, 21 drivers were on their phones.
The study wasn’t intended to promote one region of the county over the other. It’s entirely possible that at different hours of the day, another region would have had the most “offenders” pass by our stationed reporter.
The point we’re trying to make is that despite given one year and three weeks to get used to the distracted driving law, there are still many drivers throughout the county who have ignored it.
The consequences? If you’re talking financial ones, a citation for a first offense is $100; a second offense is $200; and third and subsequent offenses will each cost $300.
Is that fine worth chatting about how busy your day was at work or what items need to be purchased at the grocery store?
But if you are talking about other consequences, there’s not a phone call on Earth important enough to justify an injury or loss of life.
You see, they call it “distracted” driving for a reason. In the few seconds it takes to dig your phone out of your purse or pocket, to see who is calling and to answer that call, the time it takes to dial a 10-digit number, anything could change within your environment that you are unaware of. A pedestrian could enter an intersection. A light could change. A car in front of you could suddenly stop.
The distraction of the phone could stop you from quickly reacting and adjusting to your surroundings. And those few seconds could end up costing a heck of a lot more than a $100 fine.
So our plea is to put down your phone while your car is in drive. Avoid the temptation by silencing the phone while driving. Pull over in cases of calls that cannot be missed. Invest in a hands-free device and use it safely.
We hope this particular law will be respected and lives will be saved because of it.
The time is up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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