By GREG JORDAN
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
Drivers who want reach for a cell phone and fire off a quick text will want to think twice before they do it — especially in West Virginia, if cell service allows it.
In July, texting while driving became a primary offense in West Virginia that can result in an arrest. Depending on cell phone service, some southern West Virginia drivers who want to violate the law are more likely to be ticketed than others. There are places where mountain terrain deters texting while driving more than any state law.
Officers patrolling McDowell County’s highways do not see motorists trying to text while driving — or even talking on a cell phone while driving — because they can’t get a signal, one state trooper pointed out Monday.
“Well, cell service is super limited here, so it’s not really a big thing we’ve been aware of,” said Sgt. W.C. Tupper, Welch detachment commander.
In counties where it is possible to break the no-texting-while-driving law, officers have seen less of problem since the law went into effect in July. At that time, West Virginia joined almost 40 other states, Washington, D.C.,Guam and the Virgin Islands in banning texting while driving. A ban on driving while using a hand-held cell phone goes into effect July 1, 2013.
In Mercer County, the problem of motorists texting while driving appears to be decreasing.
“I don’t know of any tickets that’s been written on it,” said Sgt. D.W. Miller, commander of the West Virginia State Police detachment near Princeton. “The number of people we see texting seems to be going down. It seems to have curbed it quite a bit. We had problems in the past with it, but it seems to be getting better.”
Across the state line in Tazewell, Va., state law also prohibits driving while texting, said Sheriff Brian Hieatt. It is a secondary offense.
Talking on a cell phone while driving has not been completely banned in Virginia; however, if a driver is less than 18 years old, it is against the law to use a cell phone while driving unless a hands-free device is being used, Hieatt said.
In West Virginia, the fine for texting while driving in $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300 for a third or subsequent offenses.