MASON COUNTY — For all of West Virginia drivers, the consequences of using cell phones while driving has gone up.
According to a press release, Governor Earl Ray Tomblin recently signed Senate Bill 211, which will increase the penalty for using cell phones while driving. According to the bill, as of July 1, 2012, texting while driving will be a primary offense, and talking on a handheld cell phone is a secondary offense. By July 1, 2013, talking on a cell phone will be also be considered a primary offense.
In addition to signing the bill into law, Tomblin also has been distributing a safe driving pledge, that he also signed, that commits the signer to only using hands-free devices while driving. The pledge is available for all to sign at www.governor.wv.gov, and reads as follows:
I pledge to put my safety and the safety of others first.
I will not text while I am driving b/c it cn w8.
I will always use a hands-free cellphone while driving, because I am a responsible driver.
I will do my part in keeping our roadways safe.
“Both the bill and my safe driver pledge are about making our roads safer,” Gov. Tomblin said. “I spoke with several heartbroken families today who lost loved ones in car accidents caused by distracted drivers, and I assured them I was doing everything possible to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future. Unfortunately, cellphones cause a real distraction-a distraction we can’t afford on our roadways.”
People of all ages may be guilty of using their phones while driving, but one particular age group always comes to the forefront when this topic arises — teenagers. While some teenagers seem to be permanently attached to their cell phones, several things are being done in Mason County high schools to prevent any more texting related accidents.
At Hannan Jr./Sr. High School, Principal Dr. Karen Oldham stated this is the second year that several students themselves have been working to get this message across. Zach Jenkins and Kaitlynn Hughes, both juniors at Hannan, also spoke with the Point Pleasant Register, and expressed their opinions on this bill, and whether or not texting is a problem. Both felt this bill was a step in the right direction.
“I believe it will help prevent texting and driving,” Hughes said on the bill.
“It’s not a good habit to get in,” Jenkins said about texting while driving.
Also at Hannan, representatives from Allstate Insurance also came to visit students and inform them of the many dangers of using cell phones while driving. Students received thumb bands, much like the popular Livestrong wristbands, to remind them not to text and drive.
“As a parent myself, and the principal of 300 kids here, I do strongly support the bill,” Oldham said.
With Point Pleasant Jr./Sr. High School, Principal William Cottrill stated they too have been giving out thumb bands for students to wear, and they are also currently working on seatbelt safety as well.
“The more advance technology gets, the more it becomes an issue,” Cottrill said. “Teenagers especially are so connected, it’s almost like they can’t live without them (cellphones).”
Cottrill also expressed his opinion of the newly passed bill, and how the students might react to it.
“I think most will follow the law,” Cottrill said. “Hopefully it will make a change and hopefully it will make a difference.”
Concerning Wahama Jr./Sr. High School, Principal Kenny Bond also told the Point Pleasant Register that their students have attended assemblies where the featured speaker talks on the dangers of texting and driving. Bond said the students will attend this assembly again sometime this spring. He also said that Wahama’s PRO officers, Officer Stewart and Officer Spencer, are very active in this message, and encourage the students to not text and drive.
“It’s just too dangerous,” Bond said. Bond went on to say this law will have an impact, but perhaps not immediately.
“It’ll take three or four kids getting caught before it has an impact,” Bond said. “It will have an impact when they, or someone they know, will have to deal with it on a personal level.”