The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

March 13, 2012

Hang up and drive

It’s been brought up before the West Virginia Legislature for the last few years and was met with defeat.

Finally, this year, at the urging of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, state lawmakers have passed legislation that makes texting and talking on a held-held phone while driving against the law.

It’s about time.

Come July 1, texting will be a primary offense and talking will be a secondary offense, until July 1, 2013, when it becomes primary as well.

The National Transportation Safety Board came out late last year advocating stricter sanctions for drivers being distracted by the use of hand-held devices. West Virginia took heed.

It will be a culture change; if you don’t think so, just go out and observe drivers in traffic. If you do, make sure you are a safe distance away because they tend to weave all over the road.

On Saturday, while sitting in the turn lane on Eisenhower Drive, we watched just briefly and six consecutive vehicles had drivers holding cell phones up to their ear.

The statistics are out there to back supporters who believe there are countless motor vehicle deaths and serious injuries sustained every year because somebody is texting or talking while driving.

Opponents of the legislation argued that drivers are also distracted by a multitude of things — munching on food, sipping a drink, brushing hair, applying make-up — so what makes that any different? Well, it really isn’t different so maybe the law needs to be expanded.

But other arguments were put out there that the $100 fine for a first offense would impose an undue hardship on some people. One lawmaker said a college girl told him she would be “devastated” financially if she got a ticket for texting or talking while driving.

But doesn’t that underscore the point? All you have to do is refrain from texting while driving.

Just don’t do it.

In reality, drivers wouldn’t be devastated by that ticket but they surely would be if they were sending a text, or gabbing with a friend, and caused an accident that resulted in someone dying or being seriously maimed.

Every driver everywhere should start today by getting off hand-held devices when you’re behind the wheel.

Lives will be saved; it’s a worthwhile inconvenience. No life is worth a text or call, and now it’s the law.

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