CHARLESTON, WV — The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is teaming up with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and law enforcement agencies statewide for the national U Drive. U Text. U Pay. high-visibility enforcement effort. From April 3-10, 2023, law enforcement officers will work together to enforce texting and distracted driving laws. The GHSP also supports these efforts throughout the year with statewide education and enforcement activities.
According to NHTSA, nearly 32,483 people died in distraction-affected crashes over the ten-year period from 2011 to 2020. In 2020, there were 3,142 deaths linked to driver distraction, or 8% of all motor-vehicle crash fatalities. This is an increase of 23 fatalities compared to 2019.
“Make the smart choice and put your phone down when you’re driving on West Virginia roads,” said Gov. Jim Justice.
Research shows that Millennials and Generation Z are the most distracted drivers, often using their cell phones to talk, text, and scroll through social media while behind the wheel. According to NHTSA research from 2017, young drivers 16 to 24 years old have been observed using handheld electronic devices while driving at higher rates than older drivers since 2007. In 2020, 7% of drivers 15 to 20 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted.
“People know texting and driving is dangerous, but they do it anyway and it puts them and other road users at risk,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director.
Violating West Virginia’s distracted driving laws can be costly. The fine for the first offense of using a cell phone while driving in West Virginia is $100 plus court costs. The second offense carries a fine of $200 plus court costs. The consequences of a third offense and subsequent offenses are a $300 fine plus court costs, plus demerit points being applied to the driver’s license record.
“Distracted driving is as dangerous as impaired driving. That is why texting and driving is illegal in West Virginia,” continued Tipton.
Many drivers are guilty of a “double standard” when it comes to distracted driving. In its 2018 Traffic Safety Culture Index, the AAA Foundation reported that while nearly 96% of drivers believed it was very or extremely dangerous to read a text or email while driving, 4 out of 10 drivers admitted to doing so within the previous 30 days.
Drive Safe Every Trip
The GHSP and NHTSA urge drivers to put their phones away when behind the wheel. If you need to text, pull over and do not drive while doing so. If you are the driver, follow these steps for a safe driving experience:
- If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
- Ask your passenger to be your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
- Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
- Cell phone use is habit-forming. Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.
No text or post is worth ruining someone’s day or taking a life, possibly your own. Remember: U Drive. U Text. U Pay. For more information, visit www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving.
For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit www.highwaysafety.wv.gov or call 304-926-2509.
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