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125 convicted of cell ban law in West Virginia

Sgt. Mike Baylous of the West Virginia State Police said he's noticed a sharp decline in the number of drivers who text, but he still sees "quite a few" motorists who still talk on hand-held cellphones.

The Associated Press

5/6/2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — In the first 10 months since a West Virginia law banned driving while texting or talking on a hand-held cell phone, 125 offenders have been convicted of doing just that.

The Charleston Gazette (http://bit.ly/10dBcXz) said the number of convictions was based on data from the Division of Motor Vehicles.

With 13 convictions, Beckley Municipal Court had the largest number of convictions. It was followed by Berkeley County, with 12. Kanawha County reported 10 convictions.

The Legislature passed Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's distracted-driving bill last year.

Drivers caught texting while behind the wheel face fines of $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second violation and $300 for subsequent offenses.

Using a handheld cellphone to talk becomes a primary offense July 1.

The conviction numbers are expected to increase as the new law reaches its first year on the books, and as the ban on talking on a cellphone while driving becomes a primary offense. The stricter enforcement allows police to pull over drivers without first seeing them commit another offense, such as speeding.

"This last year, it's been more about education and awareness," said DMV spokeswoman Natalie Harvey, "but the law is there for a reason, and police are certainly enforcing it."

While the 125 statewide convictions might seem small, neighboring states such as Virginia reported 316 texting-while-driving convictions last year, even though Virginia has four times as many residents and a texting ban that's been on the books for four years. (Virginia's law does not prohibit talking on a cellphone while driving.)

Sgt. Mike Baylous of the West Virginia State Police said he's noticed a sharp decline in the number of drivers who text, but he still sees "quite a few" motorists who still talk on hand-held cellphones.

Baylous said he believes some troopers are issuing citations, while others hand out warnings, depending on the situation.

The Trucker staff can be reached to comment on this article at editor@thetrucker.com.

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