GOVERNOR’S HIGHWAY SAFETY PROGRAM REMINDS WEST VIRGINIA DRIVERS: U DRIVE. U TEXT. U PAY
The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) is joining highway safety and law enforcement agencies nationwide in a high visibility enforcement mobilization that targets distracted drivers. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA), the GHSP is supporting West Virginia law enforcement agencies in their efforts to cite distracted drivers, as well as statewide public information efforts with the U Drive. U Text. U Pay. message about the dangers and consequences of distracted driving. This national campaign will take place April 7-11, 2022, to focus on heightened efforts, with statewide efforts taking place throughout the month. The GHSP also supports these efforts year-round in statewide endeavors. West Virginia’s high-visibility enforcement effort will begin April 1 but will kick off with Connect to Disconnect (C2D), a 4-hour national distracted driving enforcement and awareness initiative coordinated by state highway safety offices and law enforcement agencies across the country. The goals of C2D during the enforcement period are to demonstrate a nationwide commitment to enforcing cell phone and texting bans, ultimately preventing crashes, injuries, and deaths associated with distracted driving. This initiative will take place on April 4, 2022, with multiple agencies conducting high-visibility enforcement in the same timeframe. “It’s as simple as this: put your phone down when you’re driving on West Virginia roads,” said Gov. Jim Justice. According to NHTSA, nationwide between 2012 and 2019, 26,004 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver. While fatalities from motor vehicle crashes decreased slightly from 2018, distraction-related fatalities increased by 10%. NHTSA also reported that the number of deaths linked to driver distraction was 3,142 nationwide, or almost 9% of all fatalities, in 2019. This represents a 10% increase over the year 2018, or 284 more fatalities. The distraction figure was the largest increase in causes of traffic deaths reported for 2019. 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 2019, 9% of people killed in teen (15-19) driving crashes died when the teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crash. “Would you drive while blindfolded? Did you know that when you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for approximately five seconds? Traveling at 55 miles per hour, that's like driving the length of a football field—blindfolded,” said Bob Tipton, GHSP Director. “Driving while looking at your cell phone is as dangerous as driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs. People do not realize that distracted driving is as dangerous as it is. If you see a vehicle weaving in its lane, you may be on the road with an impaired driver. Or, you may be on the road with a distracted driver. Both are equally dangerous,” Tipton continued. Violating West Virginia’s distracted driving laws is not cheap. 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. “The bottom line is this: distracted driving is illegal in West Virginia,” concluded Tipton. 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, NHTSA, and law enforcement agencies across West Virginia urge drivers to put their phones away when behind the wheel. If you are the driver, follow these steps for a safe driving experience:
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.dmv.wv.gov/ghsp or call 304-926-2509.
- 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 can be habit-forming. Do you feel the overwhelming need to text or respond to text messages, while driving? Please consider activating 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.