UPDATE 7/1/13 @ 6:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- War has been declared on distracted driving in West Virginia.
“As of today, talking on a cell phone without a hands free device is a primary offense,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. “Our law enforcement officers can and will pull you over.”
It is now a primary offense to use the phone without a hands free device while driving in West Virginia. You can be pulled over just for having your phone up to your ear.
If you get caught breaking the rules, you could face hundreds of dollars in fines and get points on your license.
Educating the public is a big part of this new law. The department of highways is working on billboards, radio ads, TV commercials and a website to make sure you remember.
The South Charleston Police Department wrote more than 20 citations to folks for talking with their phone to their ear Monday.
“I haven't heard about it,” one woman who was cited told WSAZ.com.
Another said she knew the law was coming, but forgot it went into effect today.
Officers are also helping educate.
“If you have it on speaker phone, keep it sitting down,” Officer T.A. Bailes said. “As long as it's not in your hands and you can still keep an eye on the road and things like that.”
You can still use your phone’s handset to dial, and use navigation features. But even with that, you must be able to keep your attention on the road.
“It's always best that if you're not comfortable doing it, just pull over,” Bailes said.
Next week, another new law goes into effect, making not wearing your seatbelt a primary offense.
The new ban comes into effect one year after it was signed into law. West Virginia is one of 11 states in the country to adopt the hand-held ban.
“I think it's needed because it seems people are willing to take more risks than they should when driving and cell phones are just another option for them to take,” driver Maher Elharake said.
Lawmakers have said the ban will ensure that drivers keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road. Though some drivers tell WSAZ.com the new law might be taking the distracted driving initiative a little too far.
“I’m not necessarily against people talking on the phone while they're driving. It's more so the texting while they're driving that's the distraction more than anything else,” ‘David Pugh of Dunbar said.
Hands-free options vary from ear bud headphones that have a microphone -- to devices that you leave in your car. The prices range from $12 to $100.
Fines for getting caught driving with a phone to your ear can be stiff. Violators could be forced to pay hundreds of dollars in fines and even get points on their license.
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