Bans on cell phone use, texting and other distractions from electronic devices have swept the nation in the past decade. These reforms have been possible due to increased knowledge of the role of distracted driving in car and truck accidents and the tens of thousands of injuries and deaths caused by negligent and inattentive driving every year.
West Virginia recently became the 36 th state to make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning drivers can be pulled over on that basis alone starting July 1. The enactment of Senate Bill 211 also prohibits handheld cell phone use by all drivers, but this will be phased in as a secondary offense until July 2013.
The law states that a person may not operate a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while texting. The law also prohibits operating a motor vehicle while using a cell phone or other electronic communications device, unless the use is accomplished by hands-free equipment. Due to ever changing innovations in mobile technology, the new law defines a variety of gadgets as an “electronic communication device,” including:
- Cell phones
- Personal digital assistants
- Electronic devices with mobile data access
- Laptop computers
- Broadband personal communication devices
- Two-way messaging devices
- Electronic games
- Portable computing devices
The law makes exceptions for law enforcement and other emergency responders, as well as drivers who are reporting fires, traffic accidents, serious road hazards, or medical or hazardous materials emergencies. Drivers will be subject to a $100 fine, which escalates to $300 for a third or subsequent offense.
Whether or not lawmakers make certain driving behaviors illegal, distracted driving is a clear example of negligence that can cause car accidents resulting in property damage, personal injuries or wrongful death. Any distraction — from applying makeup to speaking with passengers — can take attention away from a driver’s ability to control a vehicle’s path at a critical moment. Motorists, passengers, pedestrians and bicyclists who suffer harm due to a driver’s inattention can discuss the circumstances of a crash with a personal injury attorney to learn about the potential for proving distractions and pursuing compensation.