Texting and Driving
There are commercials and billboards everywhere warning drivers to not text and drive. These public announcements are circulating the right message. Texting and driving should be avoided at all costs. Taking one’s attention away from the roadway, even for a split second, can lead to huge consequences. Driving while distracted can end up leading to a collision that could potential impact the lives of many.
Texting and Driving Laws
In West Virginia, there is a law directly aimed at this concern. West Virginia Code § 17C-14-15 outlines the prohibited use of electronic communications devices. Specifically, West Virginia Code §17C-14-15 states in part:
(a) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a person may not drive or operate a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while:
(1) Texting; or
(2) Using a cell phone or other electronic communications device, unless the use is accomplished by hands-free equipment.
Subsection (a) of West Virginia Code §17C-14-15 specifically forbids a person from driving or operating a vehicle on the roadway while texting or using a cell phone or other electronic communications device. As one can tell, part (2) of subsection (a) does not simply limit the restrictions to cell phones, but other electronic communications device.
What does other “electronic communication device” mean? Subsection (b) answers that question. Subsection (b) of West Virginia Code §17C-14-15 defines “Electronic communication device” as “a cell telephone, personal digital assistant, electronic device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, two-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device.” As the definition describes, electronic communication device encompasses quite a large number of devices.
Although texting while driving or otherwise using an electronic communication device while operating a motor vehicle is largely prohibited in West Virginia, there are narrow exceptions to this law. Under subsection (c) of West Virginia Code §17C-14-15, it states:
Subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to:
(1) A law-enforcement officer, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, a paramedic or the operator of an authorize emergency vehicle in the performance of their official duties;
(2) A person using an electronic communication device to report to appropriate authorities a fire, a traffic accident, a serious road hazard, or a medical or hazardous materials emergencies.
(3) The activation or deactivation of hands-free equipment or a function of hands-free equipment.
Although there are exceptions to the general rule dictated in subsection (a), the exceptions are extremely limited. Further, the exceptions are seemingly aimed to further assist in the safety of the community at large.
Do Not Drive While Distracted
In sum, one should not be on one’s cell phone or other electronic communication device while operating a motor vehicle. West Virginia Code §17C-14-15 is present to make clear that texting while driving or otherwise improperly utilizing an electronic communication device is prohibited in the State of West Virginia. It is important to maintain focus on the roadway and not on a cell phone or other electronic communication device. Be safe on the roads and be alert!