Police across state to put emphasis on enforcing distracted driving laws

Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 1:41 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va (WDTV) - Law enforcement agencies across the state are teaming up to enforce texting and distracted driving laws.

The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program will work with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and law enforcement agencies statewide for the national U Drive. U Text. U Pay. high-visibility enforcement effort.

From April 3-10, law enforcement officers will work together to enforce texting and distracted driving laws.

The GHSP also supports these efforts throughout the year with statewide education and enforcement activities.

According to NHTSA, nearly 32,483 people died in distraction-affected crashes over the ten-year period from 2011 to 2020.

In 2020 alone, there were 3,142 deaths linked to driver distraction, or 8% of all motor-vehicle crash fatalities, NHTSA officials said.

“Make the smart choice and put your phone down when you’re driving on West Virginia roads,” said Gov. Jim Justice.

According to NHTSA research from 2017, young drivers 16 to 24 years old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers since 2007.

“People know texting and driving is dangerous, but they do it anyway and it puts them and other road users at risk,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director.

The fine for the first offense of using a cell phone while driving in West Virginia is $100 plus court costs. The second offense carries a fine of $200 plus court costs. The consequences of a third offense and subsequent offenses are a $300 fine plus court costs, plus demerit points being applied to the driver’s license record.

“Distracted driving is as dangerous as impaired driving. That is why texting and driving is illegal in West Virginia,” said Tipton.

The GHSP and NHTSA urge drivers to put their phones away when behind the wheel. If you need to text, pull over and do not drive while doing so.

If you are the driver, follow these steps for a safe driving experience:

  • If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
  • Ask your passenger to be your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
  • Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
  • Cell phone use is habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.

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