FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2013-03-26
“Distracted driving” is any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from the task of focusing on the road. This practice is a serious problem in West Virginia and the rest of the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 15 people die per day in the country in car accidents that involve distracted driving. In addition, another 1,200 people are injured on a daily basis.
Distracted driving includes the following activities:
- Using a cellphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to other passengers in the vehicle
- Using a GPS navigation system
- Adjusting a radio or other music player
However, one of the biggest distractions for motorists is texting and driving. A recent AT&T survey found that 43 percent of teens text and drive. For this reason, safety agencies have worked to illegalize this dangerous activity and other distracted driving practices.
West Virginia distracted driving laws
West Virginia bans motorists from all uses of handheld cellphones, including making phone calls or checking e-mail on smartphones. However, the law does not prohibit experienced drivers from making calls while driving with hands-free technology.
Using a handheld cellphone while driving is considered a secondary offense, which means that an officer can ticket a motorist for using a handheld wireless device only after pulling the driver over for a primary offense (for example, speeding). However, as of July 1, 2013, using a handheld cellphone in any way while behind the wheel will be considered a primary offense.
Additionally, any motorist that texts while driving will be fined $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for third and subsequent offenses. For third and subsequent offenses, three points will be assessed against one’s driver’s license.
The ban against texting while driving is a primary offense. This means that law enforcement can pull over a driver if the motorist is seen texting; officers do not need an additional reason, such as speeding, to stop the vehicle.
Furthermore, West Virginia has additional bans for inexperienced drivers. For example, all novice motorists with learner’s or intermediate permits are prohibited from using all cellphones while driving. Novice drivers may not use hands-free devices. This law is especially helpful because distracted driving is common among inexperienced, teen drivers. Violation of the law is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for a third offense.
Americans are natural multitaskers. Therefore, they easily succumb to the habit of distracted driving. Nevertheless, this practice is dangerous, and it is claiming the lives of thousands of people each year.
If you have been injured by a distracted driver, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney today.