Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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June 8, 2012

Texting while driving — W.Va. ban begins today

— Motorists with the hazardous habit of texting while driving better take notice. The dangerous practice is illegal in West Virginia effective today. And soon, those caught texting while driving will face consequences.

The new distracted driving measure is one of nearly 70 bills passed by the Legislature earlier this year that take effect today. Law enforcement officials across the state won’t actually begin ticketing motorists who are caught driving while texting until July 1 under the law’s new provisions, according to the Associated Press.

Hands-on cell phone use also becomes a primary offense, and one that can get a motorist pulled over, beginning in July 2013.

State Police Superintendent Jay Smithers says his officers will utilize common sense as part of enforcing the new anti-texting law. He acknowledges there will be a learning-curve period as officers attempt to locate motorists who are texting while driving.

Beginning July 1, those who are caught texting while driving will be fined $100 for a first offense; $200 for a second offense; and $300 for third and subsequent offenses.

Educational efforts are also being launched by various officials, including the State Police, the Division of Highways, the Department of Health and Human Resources and other agencies, with a goal of informing the public of the approaching ban. This includes the new safe driver pledge that college and high school students are being asked to adopt.

At least 39 states already ban texting while driving.

Nearly 5,500 people across the country were killed in crashes involving driver distraction in 2009 and another 448,000 people were injured, according to the latest figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The report found that 16 percent of all fatal accidents reported involved distracted driving. Teen drivers were most likely to be involved in such fatal crashes than other age groups, according to the study.

The new law is welcomed and long overdue. Motorists — teenagers and adults alike — have no business texting on their cell phones while driving.

It doesn’t matter how quick or good you are at texting, doing so requires taking hands off of the steering wheel and eyes off the road. And when that happens, an accident is likely to occur.

 There is a place and time to text — and that’s while you are not behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. When you are driving, your attention must be fully focused on the road. A driver who is texting while attempting to drive doesn’t have his or her full attention on the road.

And a driver distracted by texting is an accident waiting to happen.

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