CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Put down that cell phone and buckle up. West Virginia is just days away from the implementation of new laws legislators believe will make the roads safer.
Beginning July 1, motorists can no long use a hand-held cell phone in a vehicle. Bob Beach, the State Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee chairman, said this law has been in the works for years.
“Anytime you can take away a distraction in the car, it is definitely going to reduce injuries and it’s going to reduce the amount of traffic accidents that occur on our roadways,” said the Monongalia County lawmaker.
The legislature banned texting while driving in 2012. Now talking on a cell phone will be a primary offense with a $100 fine for a first offense, $200 for a second offense and $300-plus for subsequent offenses.
“You risk the chance of having points added to your driver’s license, as much as three points for that third offense,” explained Beach. “It can add up pretty quickly and can impact your insurance rates. So I’m sure the insurance companies are watching this very closely.”
Beach said on the positive side, there are a lot of devices out there these days that you can hook up in your vehicle to talk hands-free.
“Folks are trying to adapt already and that’s really good to see, ” said Beach.
Starting July 9, wearing a seat belt becomes a primary offense, as well. For years, it has been a secondary offense, meaning motorists could only be fined if they were pulled over for another traffic violation. But with the Senate pushing hard for the change, the bill made it through both chambers of the state Legislature.
Beach admitted it will not be the most popular law on the books because some people resent government telling them what they can and can’t do in their vehicle.
“If you’re on the highway by yourself, that’s another situation. But you’re sharing the highway with other folks,” Beach said. “You have to be mindful and respectful of their situation as well.”