As many readers of this blog have come to know, starting on July 1 it will be illegal to text while driving in West Virginia or talk on the phone while driving without a hands-free device in West Virginia. Here is a summary of the key points in the bill:
- Starting July 1, 2012, it will be a primary offense to text while driving in West Virginia. This means that an individual can be pulled over and cited for texting while driving.
- Starting July 1, 2012, it will be a secondary offense to talk on the phone without a hands-free device while driving in West Virginia. This means that if you are violating another law that is a primary offense (speeding for example) while also talking on a mobile phone without a hands free device, you can be cited.
- Starting July 1, 2013, it will be a primary offense to talk on the phone without a hands-free device while driving in West Virginia. This means that an individual can be pulled over and cited for talking on the phone without a hands free device.
Here is the full text of the bill (for a pdf version of the bill click here):
E N R O L L ED
Senate Bill No. 211
(BY SENATORS KESSLER (MR. PRESIDENT) AND HALL,
BY REQUEST OF THE EXECUTIVE)
[Passed March 10, 2012; in effect ninety days from passage.]
AN ACT to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by
adding thereto a new section, designated §17C-14-15, relating
to traffic safety; establishing the traffic offense of operating a
motor vehicle while texting without the use of hands-free
technology; establishing the offense of operating a motor
vehicle while using an electronic communication device
without the use of hands-free technology; defining terms;
providing exceptions; clarifying means of enforcement as a
primary offense; impact of violation on insurance coverage;
impact of violation on law enforcement ability to seize or
confiscate device; requiring signage on certain highways for
motorists entering state; providing penalties; providing for
increased fines for multiple offenses; assessing points against
driver’s license for multiple offenses; exempting offense from
the assessment of court costs and fees; and limitations.
Enr. Com. Sub. for Com. Sub. for S. B. No. 211] 2
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended
by adding thereto a new section, designated §17C-14-15, to read as
ARTICLE 14. MISCELLANEOUS RULES.
§17C-14-15. Prohibited use of an electronic communications
device driving without handheld features; definitions;
(a) Except as 1 provided in subsection (c) of this section, a
2 person may not drive or operate a motor vehicle on a public
3 street or highway while:
4 (1) Texting; or
5 (2) Using a cell phone or other electronic communica6
tions device, unless the use is accomplished by hands-free
8 (b) For purposes of this section, the following terms shall
10 (1) “Cell phone” shall mean a cellular, analog, wireless
11 or digital telephone.
12 (2) “Driving” or “operating a motor vehicle” means
13 operating a motor vehicle, with the motor running, including
14 while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic
15 control device, or other momentary delays, but does not
16 include operating a motor vehicle after the driver has moved
17 the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway and halted in a
18 location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.
19 (3) “Electronic communication device” means a cell
20 telephone, personal digital assistant, electronic device with
21 mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband
22 personal communication device, 2-way messaging device,
23 electronic game, or portable computing device. For the
24 purposes of this section, an “electronic communication
25 device” does not include:
(A) Voice radios, 26 mobile radios, land mobile radios,
27 commercial mobile radios or two way radios with the
28 capability to transmit and receive voice transmissions
29 utilizing a push-to-talk or press-to-transmit function; or
30 (B) Other voice radios used by a law-enforcement officer,
31 an emergency services provider, an employee or agent of
32 public safety organizations, first responders, Amateur Radio
33 Operators (HAM) licensed by the Federal Communications
34 Commission and school bus operators.
35 (4) “Engaging in a call” means when a person talks into
36 or listens on an electronic communication device, but shall
37 not include when a person dials or enters a phone number on
38 a pushpad or screen to initiate the call.
39 (5) “Hands-free electronic communication device” means
40 an electronic communication device that has an internal
41 feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment
42 or addition, whether or not permanently part of such
43 electronic communication device, by which a user engages in
44 a call without the use of either hand or both hands.
45 (6) “Hands-free equipment” means the internal feature
46 or function of a hands-free electronic communication device
47 or the attachment or addition to a hands-free electronic
48 communication device by which a user may engage in a call
49 or text without the use of either hand or both hands.
50 (7) “Texting” means manually entering alphanumeric
51 text into, or reading text from, an electronic communication
52 device, and includes, but is not limited to, short message
53 service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request
54 to access a World Wide Web page or engaging in any other
55 form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or
56 future communication. For purposes of this section,
57 “texting” does not include the following actions:
58 (A) Reading, selecting or entering a telephone number, an
59 extension number, or voicemail retrieval codes and com60
mands into an electronic device by the pressing the device in
order to initiate or receive a phone 61 call or using voice
62 commands to initiate or receive a telephone call;
63 (B) Inputting, selecting or reading information on a
64 global positioning system or navigation system; or
65 (C) Using a device capable of performing multiple
66 functions, including fleet management systems, dispatching
67 devices, smart phones, citizens band radios or music players,
68 for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited in this section.
69 (8) “Using a cell phone or other electronic communica70
tion device” means holding in a person’s hand or hands an
71 electronic communication device while:
72 (A) Viewing or transmitting images or data;
73 (B) Playing games;
74 (C) Composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing,
75 browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text
76 messages or other electronic data; or
77 (D) Engaging in a call.
78 (c) Subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to:
79 (1) A law-enforcement officer, a firefighter, an emer80
gency medical technician, a paramedic or the operator of an
81 authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of their
82 official duties;
83 (2) A person using an electronic communication device to
84 report to appropriate authorities a fire, a traffic accident, a
85 serious road hazard, or a medical or hazardous materials
87 (3) The activation or deactivation of hands-free equip88
ment or a function of hands-free equipment.
89 (d) This section does not supersede the provisions of
90 section three-a, article two, chapter seventeen-b of this code
91 or any more restrictive provisions for drivers of commercial
motor vehicles prescribed 92 by the provisions of chapter
93 seventeen-e of this code or federal law or rule.
94 (e) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection
95 (a) of this section is guilty of a traffic offense and, upon
96 conviction thereof, shall for a first offense be fined $100; for
97 a second offense be fined $200; and for a third or subsequent
98 offense be fined $300. No court costs or other fees shall be
99 assessed for a violation of subsection (a) of this section.
100 (f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to
101 the contrary, points may not be entered on any driver’s
102 record maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles as a
103 result of a violation of this section, except for the third and
104 subsequent convictions of the offense, for which three points
105 shall be entered on any driver’s record maintained by the
106 Division of Motor Vehicles.
107 (g) Driving or operating a motor vehicle on a public
108 street or highway while texting shall be enforced as a
109 primary offense as of July 1, 2012. Driving or operating a
110 motor vehicle on a public street or highway while using a
111 cell phone or other electronic communication device without
112 hands-free equipment shall be enforced as a secondary
113 offense as of July 1, 2012, and as a primary offense as of July
114 1, 2013 for purposes of citation.
115 (h) Within ninety days of the effective date of this
116 section, the Department of Transportation shall cause to be
117 erected signs upon any highway entering the state of West
118 Virginia on which a welcome to West Virginia sign is posted,
119 and any other highway where the Division of Highways
120 deems appropriate, posted at a distance of not more than one mile from each border crossing, each sign to bear an inscription clearly communicating to motorists entering the state that texting, or the use of a wireless communication device
124 without hands-free equipment, is illegal within this state.
125 (i) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed
126 to authorize seizure of a cell phone or electronic device by
127 any law- enforcement agency.
The Joint Committee on Enrolled Bills hereby certifies that
the foregoing bill is correctly enrolled.
The attorneys at the Manchin Injury Law Group are committed to the safety of all West Virginians. In an effort to end distracted driving and to help West Virginians comply with the new West Virginia law, the Manchin Injury Law Group will be giving away one hands-free device every week. Visit our website or the Manchin Injury Law Facebook page for more information.