W.Va. Lawmakers: Hang up and Drive

By: Hanna Francis Email
By: Hanna Francis Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- One of the very last measures passed by the West Virginia Legislature in the final hour of the 2012 session may change the way you drive your car.

The Legislature passed a bill that will ban the use of cell phones while driving. The measure has been heavily supported by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. He even pushed for it during his State of the State address in January.

"As cell phone use in the car is increased, so are deadly accidents," Gov. Tomblin told WSAZ.com.

By July 1, 2012, texting while driving will be a primary offense in West Virginia. That means a driver can be pulled over simply for texting. On that date, using a phone without a hands-free device for talking will become a secondary offense, meaning a driver can be cited only if they've done something else wrong first -- like running a red light.

On July 1, 2013, using a phone without a hands-free device for talking will become a primary offense.

With the passage of this bill, West Virginia becomes the 36th state, plus Washington D.C., to ban texting while driving. West Virginia also becomes the 10th state, plus Washington, D.C., to go ahead will a full cell phone ban behind the wheel.

Kentucky banned texting while driving in 2011. It is still legal in Ohio, but a group is pushing for a ban.

Rep. Tim Armstead, (R) Kanawha County, voted against the bill.

"I certainly supported the idea of not permitting texting while driving," Armstead told WSAZ.com, but this went far beyond that."

Part of the bill included money for signage that will be put up on roads at state boarders, letting drivers know to keep their hands off the phone.

Use of a Bluetooth device will be permitted, but using a cell phone for the GPS function will not be. When the law takes effect on July 1, mapping must be done through a device that does not require the driver to touch or change the screen while driving. For example, a GPS system that automatically tells the next step, without hitting a "next" button.

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