Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

July 3, 2013

Law of the land

Hands-free devices only

— — While public opinion on the topic may still be mixed, laws prohibiting motorists from texting while driving and using a cell phone that is not equipped with a hand-free device while driving are now in effect, and law enforcement officials in both West Virginia and Virginia are vowing to enforce the new rules.

Texting and driving became a primary offense in Virginia on Monday. And using a hand-held cell phone to talk while driving also became a primary offense this week in the Mountain State. Texting while driving is already a primary violation in West Virginia.

The new laws basically means that officers can now stop motorists who are texting while driving, talking while driving, or both.

Both the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Office are launching enforcement campaigns this week.

Deputy A.M. Ballard, of the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department, has been compiling information about the new laws as well as the dangers of distracted driving. Ballard says law enforcement departments across West Virginia will be increasing patrols to specifically look for drivers who are either texting or using a cell phone that is not equipped with a hands-free device.

“Our department has 40 hours to devote to this effort,” Ballard said. “Distracted driving can be very dangerous. Some of the statistics can be rather chilling in terms of lost lives, but one fact included on the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration website points out that sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — at 55 miles-per-hour — of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.”

In Tazewell County, deputies will be handing out approximately 100 warning cards to drivers caught texting before issuing actual citations, according to Sheriff Brian Hieatt. After the 100 warning cards are gone, those caught texting while driving will receive a summons to appear in court.

“We want to get the word out and let people know it is not safe or acceptable anymore to text or e-mail while driving,” Hieatt said. In Virginia, the fine for a first offense texting charge is $125 and $250 for a second offense.”

Like it or not, the  new anti-texting and talking without a hands-free communication device while driving rules are now the law of the land. And if you are talking without a hands-free device while driving, or texting while driving, you can and will be pulled over. Once you are stopped, you can expect a ticket, a fine and a summons to appear in court.

Texting and driving is a dangerous and unacceptable combination. The same goes for a motorist talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving. And a distracted driver is a motorist who is more likely to be involved in a serious accident.

With the new laws now in effect in both West Virginia and Virginia, such dangerous and illegal behavior will no longer be tolerated on area roadways.

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