West Va. bans texting, cell phones

west virginia governor 2012“I want West Virginians to remain free from distracted drivers,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin told lawmakers back in January. They listened.

The governor’s advocacy proved to be the key to breaking the state’s long deadlock over distracted driving, with the Legislature approving his plan to outlaw text messaging and the use of handheld cell phones for those operating motor vehicles.

(Update: Tombin signed the West Virginia distracted driving legislation into law on April 3. This article originally posted March 10, 2012.)

As time expired on the legislative session late March 10, the House and Senate reached a compromise on their dueling versions of Tomblin’s bill. The Mountain State’s distracted driving law takes effect July 1.

West Virginia becomes the 36th state to ban texting & driving, once Tomblin signs his own legislation. (View the West Virginia distracted driving news page.)

Fines are $100 (first offense), then $200, then $300. Three points will be assessed against driver’s license on third and subsequent violations.

The House and Senate rewrites of Tomblin’s bill differed primarily on the matter of enforcement. The House wanted primary enforcement for both texting & handheld cell phone use, in order to help police carry out the law. The Senate version, however, had texting as a primary offense and handheld cell phone use as a secondary one.

In the end, they compromised by delaying primary enforcement of the cell phone law for a year.

And so police in West Virginia can stop and cite drivers who text as of this July 1. Handheld cell phone users cannot be stopped solely for that violation until July 1, 2013, but they can be cited in connection with other offenses, such as speeding or crossing center lines.

Legislators have gone back and forth on a handheld cell phone ban since at least 2008.

Tomblin, pictured, first proposed the plan that became Senate Bill 211 in his State of the State address in January. His measure called for secondary enforcement of both offenses, but his office signaled support for tougher enforcement throughout the legislative process.

“The texting part really takes your eyes off the road,” Tomblin told the Charleston Gazette. “That was more important, but I’m fine with what they worked out.”

A late amendment requires the state Department of Transportation to post advisory signs on highways at the state’s borders.

Outlawed activities include using smartphones to access the Internet and to play games.


  1. every time i pass a police car guess what they are on THE PHONE 90% of the time they are worse than we are. but i bet this new law does not apply to them cause they are better than we are and they can speed, talk on cell phones and do as they wish. but not the people who is paying them to enforse these laws. i think if your going to make it LAW then it sould be LAW and NO ONE is ABOVE the LAW. we will see on July 1.

    • I was holding my phone in my hand, not using it and got stopped by the cops. What is that all about? I do not text and drive and if I use my phone I use a speaker. How can they stop me for holding it in my hand?

  2. Al Cinamon says:

    Another example of “my minds made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.” It is well established that talking (not holding) on a cell phone is just as dangerous as drunk driving. But, as you say, “that’s okay.” Exactly what is okay? The fact that you’re wrong or that you don’t care if you’re wrong. Like so many others on this forum, you feel you’re in control even if you’re talking on the phone. Well, guess what? That’s what every driver thinks just moments before the crash.

    • I followed a car the other day swerving all over the road and was afraid to pass it. When I got up beside it she was texting. She should not have been on the phone and I will not be a part of this. Please leave me alone for just holding mine in my hand, not texting or talking, I get a ticket. This is wrong, I am a very cautious driver and will not think about doing anything to harm others and DO NOT USE MY PHONE while driving but still get a ticket for having it in my hand. I DO NOT THINK SO!!!

  3. I couldn’t agree more with the the “texting” while driving law. I do not do that, it’s just to dangerous. But I don’t think talking on the phone is as big as a problem. I’m sure there r plenty out their who will disagree, but that’s okay.

  4. Al Cinamon says:

    The governor wants W. Virginia to be “free from distracted drivers.” Does anybody believe that? It’s all smoke and mirrors.

    Even when their cell phone law becomes primary in 2013, it will only cover hand-held phones. The truth is that W. Va., like so many other states is actually encouraging distracted driving by giving motorist a false sense of security. Talking on the phone (not holding it) is the distraction. So what the state is saying in effect is this: You can drive distracted, just don’t let the police see you doing it.

    The NTSB chairwoman said it all when she recommended a ban on all electronic devices, not just hand-held. Why won’t the states go along with that suggestion. Because it’s a political issue. It has nothing to do with safety.

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