West Virginia’s cellphone ban holds up well in light of new research

Compared to many other states, West Virginia's distracted driving law is relatively strong, recent research shows. A study published in the August 2014 issue of the American Journal of Public Health took a closer look at different distracted driving laws throughout the country and measured how effective each one has been at preventing fatal car accidents over the past ten years. Although West Virginia's cellphone law is relatively new, the findings suggest that it may be more effective than many similar laws in other states.

Although distracted driving can be dangerous in any form, most conversations on the topic center on cellphone use - and especially texting. This makes sense because texting while driving and other cellphone-related forms of distracted driving are both widespread and extremely dangerous.

A closer look at West Virginia's distracted driving law

One way that West Virginia's cellphone law differs from those in many other states is that it authorizes police to stop drivers specifically for cellphone violations. This is what is known as a primary enforcement law. In some other states, police can only ticket drivers for violating a cellphone ban after stopping them for some other reason, such as having a broken taillight or exceeding the speed limit. The SPH study shows that primary enforcement bans are generally more effective at reducing serious distracted driving accidents.

The findings also suggest that cellphone bans are most effective at saving lives when they define the prohibited behavior in broad rather than narrow terms. In West Virginia, the law prohibits drivers of all ages from using handheld phones for any reason, rather than specifically banning certain activities.

This comprehensive approach eliminates many of the potential loopholes that can get in the way of enforcement. For instance, in some states that ban only texting and emailing, drivers are not prevented from using their phones in other ways that may be just as risky, such as posting to Facebook or browsing the Internet.

Distracted driving remains a constant threat

According to distraction.gov, the federal government's distracted driving awareness website, there are roughly 660,000 drivers on their cellphones at any given moment during daylight hours in the United States. Research also shows that drivers who are dialing, texting or engaging in other activities that occupy their eyes and hands are three times more likely to crash.

Together, these statistics hint at the large numbers of preventable traffic accidents that occur every day as a result of cellphone-related distracted driving. People who have been hurt by distracted drivers should get in touch with a personal injury lawyer to discuss the possibility of pursuing compensation for their medical expenses, lost income and other damages.