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Texting while driving offenses on the rise in WV

To curb distracted driving, starting in July 2012, it was against the law to text while driving.  In the ten months since the law took effect, according to the Charleston Gazette, there have been 125 convictions of drivers who texted while driving in West Virginia.  While the overall number of 125 convictions may seem small, when compared to larger neighboring states like Virginia, which had 316 texting while driving offenses, West Virginia's enforcement of the law appears on track. 

The law, codified as WV Code 17C-14-15, makes texting while driving a primary offense and talking on a handheld phone while driving a secondary offense until July 1, 2013.  After July 1, 2013, the code also makes talking on a handheld phone while driving a primary offense. 

Under the new law, drivers caught texting while behind the wheel face fines of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second violation, and $300 for subsequent offsenses.  Additionally, for a third offense and more, drivers may recieve up to three points against their licenses. 

Distracted driving is a major cause of collisions and injuries on West Virginia roadways.  The following are key statistics to keep in mind:

Key Facts and Statistics

  • 40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. (Pew)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Monash University)
  • Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. (VTTI)
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (VTTI)
  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 were injured. (NHTSA)
  • 16% of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
  • 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
  • In the month of June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US, up nearly 50% from June 2009. (CTIA)
  • Teen drivers are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. In 2009, 16% of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted. (NHTSA)
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon)

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