The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


June 27, 2013

Put it down

A lot has changed in the past quarter century.

Can you imagine once pulling out of a new car lot in your brand new 1988 Pontiac Fiero, and seeing countless other drivers speeding by, eyes downward, reading a stack of index cards or their daily newspaper?

That would have seemed very peculiar, indeed.

Yet here we are, 25 years later, and it is not uncommon to pass other drivers who are either talking using new technology — a mobile phone — texting away furiously, all while looking at something other than the road in front of them.

It’s frightening.

And it’s against the law in West Virginia, as of 2012.

Beginning Monday, it will be a primary offense in our state.

We’ve had a year to adjust our behavior.

The law states:

“Driving or operating a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while texting shall be enforced as a primary offense as of July 1, 2012. Driving or operating a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while using a cell phone or other electronic communication device without hands-free equipment shall be enforced as a secondary offense as of July 1, 2012, and as a primary offense as of July 1, 2013 for purposes of citation.”

The penalty will be costly, in dollars and potentially driving privileges.

“Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (a) of this section is guilty of a traffic offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall for a first offense be fined $100; for a second offense be fined $200; and for a third or subsequent offense be fined $300.

“... Points may not be entered on any driver’s record maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles as a result of a violation of this section, except for the third and subsequent convictions of the offense, for which three points shall be entered on any driver’s record maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles.”

Law enforcement officials have made it clear. They will be looking for offenders.

While much has changed, some things haven’t. Folks will continue to engage in risky behavior on our highways.

But our hope is that enforcement of this law will cause drivers to put the mobile device down while driving and concentrate on arriving safely instead.

It’s a law that we, and hopefully all of us, can live with.

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