On July 1, 2012, texting while driving will become a primary offense – that means that you can be pulled over and issued a ticket if an officer sees you sending a text message while driving. Talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device will also be illegal as of July 1st but as a secondary offense. A secondary offense means that if you are pulled over for any reason by police in West Virginia, and are using a hand-held cell phone, you may face additional penalties and fines.
What will be the consequences for violating these new laws?
- 1st Offense – Fine of $100
- 2nd Offense – Fine of $200
- 3rd Offense – Fine of $300 and 3 points on your license
While these penalties may not appear to be severe enough to discourage people from texting while driving, I should point out that you can be charged with a more serious offense should the circumstances warrant such charge.
For example, if you are operating your vehicle while you are using your phone to send or receive text messages, and you're driving is deemed reckless, you could possibly be charged with reckless driving, which has greater consequences than the penalties I have just described. In addition, if your act of texting and driving causes a car accident, and another person is killed because of your conduct, you may be subject to being charged with involuntary manslaughter for your actions.
On June 6, 2012, a Massachusetts teen was sentenced to 2 years in prison after causing a fatal car accident that killed one driver and left the other seriously injured. Police discovered that the 17-year-old driver had sent over 100 text messages that day, some of which were sent seconds before the deadly impact.