Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Contact: Troy Green, 202-366-9550
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today applauded West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and the state legislature for enacting a strong new law that prohibits text messaging and hand-held cell phone use while driving. The signing comes at the outset of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, an initiative that aims to educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving.
"Governor Tomblin and the state legislature are sending a strong public safety message to all West Virginians by enacting this tough texting and hand-held cell phone ban into law," said Secretary LaHood. "One text or call could wreck it all. Too many lives have been senselessly lost on our nation's roads due to the epidemic of distracted driving."
West Virginia becomes the 36th state to prohibit texting behind the wheel and the 10th state to outlaw hand-held cell phone use by all drivers. The new law takes effect on July 1 and violators will be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $300 for the third offense. Three points will also be assessed against driver's licenses on third and subsequent violations.
Text messaging while driving will be a primary offense on July 1. Handheld cell phone use while driving will be limited to secondary enforcement on July 1, but will become a primary offense one year later on July 1, 2013.
West Virginia and 35 other states, the District of Columbia and Guam ban text messaging by all drivers. West Virginia joins nine states, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands in prohibiting all hand-held cell phone use while driving.
In 2009, Secretary LaHood launched a national anti-distracted driving campaign to combat the growing trend of dangerous distracted driving behavior in America. The U.S. Department of Transportation launched Distraction.gov, a dedicated website that provides the public with a comprehensive source of information on distracted driving.
The Department has also hosted two national summits devoted to the issue, crafted sample legislation which states can use to adopt distracted driving laws, and initiated pilot law enforcement programs in Hartford, Conn., and Syracuse, N.Y., modeled after the Department's successful efforts to increase seatbelt use and curb drunk driving.
In November 2010, the Department of Transportation launched "Faces of Distracted Driving," a video series featuring people from across the country who have been injured or lost loved ones in distracted driving crashes. To watch videos from the "Faces of Distracted Driving" series, and to learn more about the U.S. Department of Transportation's campaign against distracted driving, visit Distraction.gov.