The new texting-while-driving legislation which was passed in West Virginia is set to take effect on Friday, June 8, 2012. West Virginia is now the 41st state banning texting-while-driving.
However, the law does not apply just to texting, but also to talking on the cell phone. On June 8 texting or using a hand-held cell phone becomes a secondary offense – meaning that cops are not supposed to pull you over just for that offense, but they can ticket you for that offense if they pull you over for some other reason. On July 1, 2012 it becomes a primary offense.
At this point it is important to make sure new vehicles you buy are equipped with bluetooth hands-free cellular technology. If not, you will want to buy a bluetooth headset if you must talk on your cell phone while driving.
As of right now, unlike other states, texting and driving is not illegal in West Virginia. However, for drivers under the age of 18, cell phone use while driving is illegal, which includes texting. There is legislation currently under consideration in WV which would make texting and driving a traffic infraction. However, it has not yet been adopted, partially because it also criminalizes texting while parked in traffic. There was recently an article in the Charleston Gazette on the legislation, which included some of the following information:
As drafted, texting while driving would be a primary offense — meaning that police officers could pull over drivers for texting, without observing any other traffic violations. However, there would be no court costs or driver’s license points assessed for a conviction.
Under the bill, drivers who pull over to the side of the road to read or send text messages would not be in violation of the law.
However, as currently drafted, drivers could be cited for texting while on a roadway, even if they were stuck in a traffic backup, and their vehicles were not moving.
Both nationally and in West Virginia, texting and driving is a substantial cause of serious injury and death in car wrecks. Essentially, texting and driving is driving while distracted. The federal government actually has a website which informs people about the dangers of distracted driving. It contains some of the following information:
Research on distracted driving reveals some surprising facts:
- 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA).
- Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashed, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes). (NHTSA)
- In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (FARS and GES)
- The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group – 16 percent of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. (NHTSA)
- Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
- Using a cell phone use while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)
Police-reported data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) and the National Automotive Sampling show that:
- In 2009, there were 30,797 fatal crashes in the United States, which involved 45,230 drivers. In those crashes 33,808 people died.
- In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction (16% of total fatalities).
- The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction increased from 10 percent in 2005 to 16 percent in 2009. During that time, fatal crashes with reported driver distraction also increased from 10 percent to 16 percent.
- The portion of drivers reportedly distracted at the time of the fatal crashes increased from 7 percent in 2005 to 11 percent in 2009.
- The under-20 age group had the highest proportion of distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes (16%). The age group with the next greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the 20- to-29-year-old age group – 13 percent of all 20-to-29-year-old drivers in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted.
- Of those drivers reportedly distracted during a fatal crash, the 30-to-39-year-old drivers were the group with the greatest proportion distracted by cell phones. Cell phone distraction was reported for 24 percent of the 30-to-39-year-old distracted drivers in fatal crashes.
- Light-truck drivers and motorcyclists had the greatest percentage of total drivers reported as distracted at the time of the fatal crash (12% each). Bus drivers had the lowest percentage (6%) of total drivers involved in fatal crashes that were reported as distraction-related.
- An estimated 20 percent of 1,517,000 injury crashes were reported to have involved distracted driving in 2009.
The National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) is a nationally representative survey specifically focused toward documenting events and conditions leading up to crashes.
- NMVCCS captures distraction as an associated factor to the crash and/or as the critical reason that made the crash imminent. Driver distraction was coded as the critical reason in 18 percent of the crashes. Data describing the specifics of the distraction — for example adjusting the radio or eating — are included in this data set.
Another method for collecting pre-crash data is through naturalistic driving studies, in which vehicles are equipped with cameras and data recording equipment.
- During NHTSA’s 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study, driver involvement in secondary tasks contributed to more than 22 percent of all crashes and near-crashes recorded during the study period.
The following NHTSA data sources were used in the research:
- Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)
- National Automotive Sampling System (NASS) General Estimates System (GES)
- National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS)
- The 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study
- National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS) of Driver Electronic Use
- Motor Vehicle Occupant Safety Survey (MVOSS)
Please understand that although texting and driving is not yet a traffic infraction in West Virginia, it is punishable through civil liability in a personal injury lawsuit. One of the first things we do as WV car wreck attorneys is to subpoena cell phone information for drivers who may have been using cell phones at the time of the car accident. In close liability situations this can seal the deal. In other situations, it helps ensure that our clients cannot be threatened with potential liability issues at trial.
Many times, if one driver in a car accident was on a cell phone, that fact can be introduced at trial as evidence of fault. Cell phone records from the provider may be used as evidence of the cell phone usage, providing a time and date of each use.
If you have a case in which you will need to subpoena cell phone records, no need to reinvent the wheel…
I came across this posting of Mark Bennett’s regarding addresses of the major cell phone companies to which to serve subpoenas, which can be used in either civil or criminal cases.
Here is the link.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Car Accident Attorney.