Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

May 16, 2013

Distracted drivers

W.Va. crackdown welcomed

— — Come July 1, using a hand-held cell phone to talk while driving will become a primary offense in the Mountain State. Texting while driving is already a primary violation in West Virginia. That means police will be able to pull motorists over for that offense alone.

 Cellphones are useful and have even saved lives on many occasions, but using them irresponsibly can easily leads to crashes. Local deputies and state troopers say cellphone use is a factor in many of the crashes they investigate. Drivers focusing on conversations instead of the road will often lose track of the traffic around them and end up crashing into other vehicles.

Unfortunately, we see such distracted drivers just about every single day. A frightening sight many people have seen in their rear-view mirrors is the reflection of another driver talking on a cellphone. One look at their faces will often reveal that they are not paying attention to what is in front of them. And that is how accidents happen.

That’s why recent word of a crackdown on distracted drivers is welcomed. The Associated Press reported last week that in the first 10 months since a West Virginia law banning driving while texting or talking on a hand-held cell phone, 125 offenders have already been convicted.

The Legislature passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s distracted driving bill last year. Texting while behind the wheel is a primary offense.

Drivers face fines of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second violation and $300 for subsequent offenses. Motorists also can get up to three points placed on their driving records for a third-offense violation.

Using a hand-held cellphone to talk becomes a primary offense July 1. It will carry the same fines as texting. And once again police will be able to pull motorists over for using a hand-held cellphone to talk while driving.

Although local statistics are not currently available, state troopers and sheriff’s deputies interviewed by the Daily Telegraph last week say they intend to actively enforce the new laws.

“You can bet we’ll be enforcing it,” said Sgt. M.A. Smith of the Princeton detachment of the West Virginia State Police.

The police enforcement crackdown on distracted drivers is welcomed.

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

Let’s all keep our eyes on the road, and our fingers off our cell phones, while driving.

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