The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

July 21, 2013

What does cell phone law cover?

By Kate Coil
For The Register-Herald

PRINCETON — Most residents in West Virginia know by now they will be penalized for talking and texting on cell phones. But what about if they are caught using a pager, laptop or CB radio?

Sgt. M.S. Haynes, assistant detachment commander of the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment, said several residents have called the detachment since the law was passed to clarify what types of communications devices are allowed while driving and what devices are prohibited.

Haynes said West Virginia code prohibits motorists from texting or using an electronic communications device without the use of “hands-free technology.”

Haynes said the code defines a cell phone as any “cellular, analog, wireless or digital” telephone. The code prohibits motorists from operating a vehicle while using a “cell phone, personal digital assistance, electric device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game or portable communication device.”

However, Haynes said there are some exceptions to the law.

“There are certain exemptions,” he said. “One of those exceptions is the radios that are used by emergency services and law enforcement.”

Other exceptions include voice radios, mobile radios, land mobile radios, commercial mobile radios or two-way radios with push-to-talk or press-to-transmit functions.

Though the ban on using a cell phone while driving isn’t even a month old, Haynes said he and other troopers are noticing residents are doing their best to comply.

“I have noticed at least one or two people who have pulled off to the side of the road to take a call,” Haynes said. “I have personally bought a hands-free phone for my own use and I know a lot of people who have done the same to be in compliance with the law. It’s going really well. People are starting to catch on. They are learning what they can and can’t do.”

Haynes said the ultimate goal of the law is to reduce the number of accidents caused by distracted driving.

“In the long run, we hope to see not only the number of accidents drop but the number of injuries, fatalities and property damage we see decrease,” he said.

Operating a motor vehicle while talking on a cell phone became a primary traffic offense July 1. Police have been able to stop drivers suspected of texting while driving as a primary offense since July 1, 2012.

— Kate Coil is a reporter for the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.