Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

October 25, 2013

Texting crackdown: Virginia taking new law seriously

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — Hundreds of motorists in Virginia have been cited in recent months for texting while driving as part of a tough yet welcomed enforcement of the new law.

Since the act of texting while driving became a primary offense on July 1, troopers with the Virginia State Police have cited several hundred motorists statewide. During the period from July 1 to Sept. 28, troopers stopped and charged 328 drivers for violating the state’s new “texting while driving” law, according to Corinne Geller, public relations director  for the Virginia State Police.

During this year’s session of the General Assembly, lawmakers amended existing state code to make texting while driving a primary offense. A violation of the new law is a traffic infraction punishable for the first offense by a fine of $125. A second or subsequent offense is punishable by a fine of $250. The law applies to the operator of a passenger vehicle in motion and exempts law-enforcement and other first responders.

While catching someone in the act of texting while driving may not be easy, troopers in both Virginia and West Virginia are doing their best to stop those who violate the new law. Texting while driving is a dangerous 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.

Gellar says troopers are enforcing the new law just like any other primary offense. In order to catch a motorist who is texting while driving, the trooper must observe the illegal conduct of the vehicle’s operator, thus providing the officer with reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on that vehicle. Further investigation will determine what, if any, offenses the driver will be cited for. Troopers have the discretion to warn, summons or arrest a violator.

Troopers in neighboring West Virginia also are actively looking for those who violate the Mountain State’s new anti-texting while driving law. In Mercer County alone, several people have already been cited for texting while driving, according to Sgt. J. Centeno of the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment.

In West Virginia, those caught texting or talking without a hands-free communications device face a $100 first offense fine followed by a $200 fine for a second offense and a $300 penalty for a third violation.

We welcome the enforcement of the new law. Unfortunately, we see such distracted drivers just about every single day. And it is a frightening sight to view a motorists talking on a cellphone, or worse yet texting, while driving. 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.

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