The Times West Virginian

Local News

September 29, 2013

Survey shows 14-19 percent not obeying seat belt law

FAIRMONT — Not wearing your seat belt became a primary offense in West Virginia July 9.

It has been almost three months since the law went into effect, but not all drivers in Marion County are following the law.

Bill H.B. 2108 makes it a primary offense for any passenger or driver in the front seat to not buckle up, and anyone under 18 years old in the back seat. For primary offenses, police officers are able to pull over drivers and issue a traffic citation if they see motorists not buckling up.

Not wearing a seat belt has been against the law since the West Virginia Legislature passed the seat belt law in 1993, making not wearing a seat belt a secondary offense. This meant that while not wearing a seat belt was a traffic violation, a motorist couldn’t be pulled over just for not buckling up. They had to be stopped first for violating other traffic laws, such as reckless driving or speeding.

Now that it’s a primary offense, however, that isn’t the case. Being cited for not wearing a seat belt carries a $25 fine, though no additional court costs will be added, nor will any points be put on the driver’s record.

The Times West Virginian sent reporters out into Marion County to see how many residents were following the new law. Reporters staked out high-traffic intersections in the afternoon or early morning, when many motorists go to or from work.

Reporters parked at an intersection and counted cars moving along one lane of

traffic. Of those cars, reporters kept track of how many drivers were wearing their seat belts, and of those who were not wearing seat belts, how many were men and how many were women.

One reporter watched morning traffic in Mannington at the intersection of Market Street and Buffalo Street. Another reporter looked at the lunch rush in West Fairmont, at the intersection of Locust Avenue and Fourth Street. Reporters also watched traffic in East Fairmont at the intersection of Morgantown Avenue and East Park Avenue during the evening rush. A reporter also went to U.S. 250 in White Hall near Walmart in the evening.

East Fairmont saw the most traffic. Between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., 561 cars passed. Of those cars, 91 of the drivers were not wearing seat belts. That’s 16 percent of drivers not wearing their seat belts. 75 percent of those not wearing seat belts were men; 25 percent were women.

This trend continued throughout Marion County, with significantly more men than women not buckling up countywide.

White Hall had the second-highest number of drivers. Between 6:10 p.m. and 7:10 p.m., 350 cars drove past. 50 motorists were not wearing their seat belts, or 14 percent. 80 percent of those unbuckled were men, and 20 percent were women.

In West Fairmont, reporters counted cars from noon to 1 p.m. 223 cars drove by, with 35 drivers not wearing their seat belts, or 16 percent. Of those not wearing seat belts, 77 percent were men, and 23 percent were women.

Mannington had the biggest gender-divide. 115 cars passed, with 22 drivers not buckling up, at 19 percent. 91 percent of those unbuckled were men, while only 9 percent were women.

While Hall Police Chief Geno Guerrieri wishes more people would wear their seat belts.

“It’s a good law. When you’re operating a vehicle, you need to have your seat belt on,” Guerrieri said. “It’s going to save your life.”

Guerrieri said that officers have mostly been giving out verbal warnings since the law passed in July. They have also given out around 15 citations.

“We observe traffic each day around the same time, so that way if we see people whom we’ve pulled over before and given them a warning, we can make sure they’re buckling up,” Guerrieri said.

Through Click It or Ticket, Guerrieri said that they are able to pay officers for overtime to give citations or warnings for both the seat belt and cellphone laws.

Guerrieri said that as big a problem as not buckling up is, cellphone use is even bigger.

“If you’re on a cellphone and get in a wreck, people can get hurt,” Guerrieri said. “You have to stay focused.”

Guerrieri recommends that motorists with new vehicles read their manual or see their car dealer about setting up Bluetooth if they want to use their phones in the car.

“It takes you less than a minute to set up Bluetooth,” Guerrieri said.

Marion County Sheriff Joseph Carpenter said that they’ve given a lot of verbal warnings, but few citations. Carpenter thinks the law has already helped deter motorists from not buckling up.

“Any time you put a law into effect, a lot of people will abide by it just because it’s a law now, and people don’t want to break the law,” Carpenter said.

West Virginia is the 35th state to adopt a primary offense seat belt law.

The law came into effect shortly after talking on a phone without a hands-free device became a primary offense July 1.

Email Colleen S. Good at cgood@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @CSGoodTWV.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • erin autism 1.jpg East Dale student, loyal to twin bother, promotes autism awareness

    Erin Pride, 12, is a sixth-grader at East Dale Elementary School.
    She likes to play basketball, is a Girl Scout and just started learning the clarinet for school band.
    This Christmas, she received a rubber band bracelet loom. Rubber brand bracelets are very popular, and she started making bracelets and trading them at school.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tuesday deadline for voter registration

    The deadline for new voters to register before the May 13 primary is fast approaching.
    Residents have until 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday to go to a government office, such as the county clerk’s office or the DMV, and fill out a voter registration card.

    April 19, 2014

  • Swimming Challenge available for children with autism

    The Corridor Chapter of the Autism Society of West Virginia (AS-WV) and the YMCA of Clarksburg will be sponsoring the second annual Swimming Challenge for children affected by autism.
    The swimming challenge gives children with autism the opportunity to attend swimming lessons and work on their swimming skills one-on-one.

    April 19, 2014

  • CASA Superhero 5K set for April 26

    The second annual CASA Superhero 5K will be held April 26 in Fairmont.
    The event is at East Marion (Wave Pool) Park and is an annual fundraiser for CASA programs in Harrison, Marion, Monongalia and Preston counties.

    April 19, 2014

  • 041814 Fishing 2.jpg Fun, prizes mark annual event at Curtisville Lake

    An annual family fishing event begins at 9:30 a.m. today.
    The Marion County Parks and Recreation Commission and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources are having the annual Family Fishing Day. The event will take place today at Curtisville Lake, with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m. and prizes being given away at 10:30 a.m.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Police: Shooting of boy accidental

    A boy remains in critical condition after being shot more than a week ago, and police officials are now saying the incident was accidental in nature.
    On Wednesday, April 9, at 7:52 p.m., police were dispatched to a Fairmont residence after an 11-year-old boy sustained a gunshot wound inside the home.

    April 18, 2014

  • FGH oncology to benefit from cleanup

    Proceeds from this year’s town cleanup and recycling in White Hall will go toward comforting local cancer patients.
    During Monday’s council meeting, recorder Charlie Mason said the town will hold its annual cleanup from 7 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 3, at Fabric and Foam in White Hall. He said only White Hall residents may bring their garbage to throw away, but any Marion County resident may bring metal (excluding computers, televisions and tires) to recycle.

    April 18, 2014

  • Pleasant Valley approves phase two of cemetery project

    Pleasant Valley City Council approved phase two of a project to fence in Samuel Linn Cemetery in Benton’s Ferry at the council meeting Tuesday.
    The cemetery was started in 1852, with the death of Samuel Linn.

    April 18, 2014

  • UPDATE: Police say 11-year-old shot in 'accidental discharge of a firearm'

    A boy remains in critical condition after being shot more than a week ago, and police officials are now saying the incident was accidental in nature.

    April 17, 2014

  • Attorney General - CB.jpg Morrisey wants to work with all to ‘help transform West Virginia’

    State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey wants to work with citizens to “help transform West Virginia.”
    Morrisey was the guest speaker for the Marion County Chamber of Commerce’s “Lunch and Learn” event Wednesday at the Mon Power headquarters, located in the I-79 Technology Park in Fairmont. His trip to the Friendly City followed a town hall meeting in Harrison County Tuesday night.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

Featured Ads
TWV Video Highlights
NDN Editor's Picks
House Ads