WSAZ Investigates: Are distracted driving laws working?

Published: Nov. 6, 2017 at 3:53 PM EST
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Lawmakers put codes into place throughout the Tri-State to act as a driving force in discouraging people from being distracted behind the wheel.

West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky have all banned texting while driving. West Virginia is even more strict, also banning a handheld device behind the wheel.

Now that the laws have been on the books for a few years, WSAZ is breaking down whether or not a we can see a change in driver behavior.

In the state of West Virginia, more than 30,000 citations have been issued for using a phone while driving since the law went into effect in 2013, according to numbers provided by the Governor's Highway Safety program.

The West Virginia Division of Highways provided WSAZ with distracted driving crash data from 2010 to currently.

The information includes crashes not only related to cell phone usage but also other distractions inside of the vehicle (playing with the radio, putting on makeup, etc.)

Those numbers indicate a slight downward trend in distracted driving crashes. In 2010, distracted driving crashes totaled 1,779. In 2016, there were 1,612 distracted driving crashes.

Since 2010, there have been nearly 13,000 distracted driving related crashes in West Virginia. 95 of them being fatal.

"There are people that actually obey this law and won't text or call because it's a law," West Virginia State Police Capt. Reginald Patterson said.

According to Patterson, there are still several who disobey the law because using a cell phone has become such a routine part of life.

"You'll see them driving down the road and the vehicle will be weaving from side to side. It almost appears like they're under the influence," Patterson said.

Ohio and Kentucky law only bans texting behind the wheel.

The Ohio State Highway patrol has cited more than 2,000 since the state's law went into effect in 2013.

Crash data from the Ohio Department for Public Safety indicates collisions due to cell phone use is up.

In 2013, 3,143 crashes were reported. In 2016, the number jumped 16 percent to 3,687.

According to data from Kentucky, the number of cell phone related crashes have stayed relatively the same since their texting ban in 2010.