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Thumbs up: Tougher law aids effort to reduce distracted driving

Dec. 10, 2013 @ 11:31 PM

For the motorists on the receiving end, word that police are writing citations for violations of West Virginia’s tougher distracted driving law is not necessarily good news.

But for the motoring pubic in general, that’s a good sign. Let’s hope that all drivers get the message and start obeying the law.

Beginning July 1, talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving became a primary offense, meaning that a law officer could stop and cite a driver holding a cellphone to his or her ear for that offense alone rather than being required to have some other reason to stop the driver. Texting while driving already was a primary offense.

Between July 1 and Nov. 30, officers with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program issued 286 citations and 108 warnings to motorists violating the distracted driving law, according to a report by The Register-Herald in Beckley. That’s not an overwhelming number, but it’s a signal that law enforcement officers are not ignoring violations of the new law.

Both talking on a cellphone or texting while driving carry a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second one and $300 for subsequent violations. But avoiding a fine should not be the primary motivation for drivers. Safety — their own and that of others — is.

Studies have shown that talking or texting while driving contributes to a significant number of highway accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 3,331 people were killed and about 387,000 were injured in crashes across the country involving a distracted driver in 2011. The widespread use of cellphones is considered a key contributor to those numbers.

Police should continue to act against violators of the distracted driving law, and motorists should realize it’s in their best interests to stay off their phones.



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