BECKLEY, W.Va. – State Police Superintendent Colonel Jay Smithers said Monday State Troopers won’t be taking advantage of the exemption in a new state law that allows for police officers to use hand-held cell phones while driving.
‘It’s been the policy of the West Virginia State Police since day one that our folks would not take advantage of the law enforcement exemption,” Smithers said. “So we’re going to comply just as anybody else would.”
Smithers talked about that compliance and enforcement of the new provision that makes using a hand-held cell phone a primary traffic offense after he had joined Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, state Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox and others at Tamarack in Beckley Monday for the unveiling of the “Just Drive” campaign.
“Distracted driving is a serious threat to roadway safety,” Gov. Tomblin said during the news conference. “During a period of seven days last month, Troopers issued 93 citations for texting while driving, 127 citations for reckless driving, and eight citations for collisions involving distracted driving. This law has been in effect for a year -it’s time to put safety first. Turn it off. Put it down. Just Drive.”
Col. Smithers said State Troopers have gone to hands-free devices as they patrol the state’s highways. As for the new provision that began Monday, he said discretion in enforcement would continue to be used just like it has for the texting ban during the past year.
“Our troopers are trained to enforce the laws as the situation dictates. They have discretion as always. So far it’s worked out very well for us,” he said.
The “Just Drive” campaign will be a statewide effort by the Department of Transportation to remind drivers of the new provisions. Failure to wear a seatbelt becomes a primary traffic offense next week, July 9.
Col. Smithers said he doesn’t believe the seatbelt change will be as difficult as hand-held cell phone use.
“I think we’ve won that battle. Most folks that you see now comply with that,” Smithers said. ‘It’s a rarity that we stop folks for any reason and they are not buckled up.”
Col. Smithers pointed out the new seatbelt law requires all passengers to be buckled up also.