Distracted driving dangers in West Virginia

Since 2013, West Virginia has had a primary law in effect banning the handheld use of cell phones while driving.

As public awareness of the dangers of drunk driving increased over many decades, the laws also changed. Today the penalties for driving under the influence may include extremely high fines, the loss of driving privileges, the required use of an ignition interlock device. A DUI is a criminal charge that also results in a person having a criminal record.

In contrast, distracted driving is a simple traffic violation yet more and more research is showing just how dangerous it is. Like drunk driving, distracted driving is 100-percent preventable if only people would make the right choices.

What are West Virginia's laws on distracted driving?

Since 2012, the state has had a primary law banning texting while driving. A year later, any handheld use of a mobile phone or device capable of electronic communications was banned also as a primary law.

Fines for violating this law can be $100, $200 or $300 for a first, second or third offense, respectively. A third offense also adds points to a person's driving record. Unlike drunk driving, there is no loss of driving privileges, no criminal charges or other such penalties.

Is distracted driving really that dangerous?

It would be logical to wonder if distracted driving is so bad if the law does not treat is as seriously as it does drunk driving. According to the National Safety Council, 28 percent of all vehicle accidents involve the use of cell phones.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that 10 percent of all accidents that result in the death of at least one person involve a distracted driver.

These facts suggest that the laws in West Virginia may not actually be reflective of the true danger that citizens face when sharing the road with distracted drivers.

Is phone-based distraction worse than other distractions?

EndDistractedDriving.org explains that a distraction can be anything that requires a driver to divert their attention, eyes or hands away from the road or the act of driving. The use of a phone actually requires all three of these things, heightening the danger associated with handheld phone use while driving.

In the mere five seconds it takes to send or read the average text, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that a driver can travel the length of a standard football field when driving 55 miles per hour.

What should I do if hit by a distracted driver?

Especially given the fact that the laws will not penalize people much for violating the state's distracted driving laws, it is important that West Virginia residents protect themselves after a crash. Talking to an attorney can give people a good idea of their options for compensation in these situations.