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Is a Tough Cellphone Law Behind WV’s Declining Collision Rate?

In 2013, West Virginia passed a tough distracted driver law that made it a primary offense for any driver to use a handheld cellphone or to engage in texting while driving. The law also made it a primary offense for novice drivers to use any kind of a cellphone. Fines were set at $100 for a first offense, $200 for a second offense, and $300 and three penalty points for a third offense. Not only was the law tough, but enforcement was stringent. In the first 10 months the law was on the books, West Virginia authorities racked up 125 convictions.

Now, data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the years 2014 to 2016 shows that collisions in West Virginia have declined 4.2 percent, and there is reason to believe that the decline could be due to the new cellphone law and its aggressive enforcement.

According to Robert Gordon, senior vice president for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, certain states are seeing spikes in collisions and others are witnessing declines. The increases are taking place in densely populated areas where traffic congestion is growing. As congestion increases, traffic slows, and as traffic slows, drivers are more likely to relieve their boredom by engaging with their smartphones.

However, in areas like West Virginia that have not experienced marked population growth, collisions have declined. Mr. Gordon does not give a reason for the decline in several states, but many states have similarly strict cellphone bans. Minnesota, which experienced the greatest decline in collisions at 10.7 percent, bans all cellphone use by all bus drivers and novice drivers, and bans texting for all drivers, making all of these usages primary offenses. Many other states that experienced declines (North Dakota, Michigan, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Maine) also ban texting and make cellphone violations a primary offense.

From this data, it appears that tough laws against distracted driving can help reduce the number of collisions, keeping all of us safer on the road.

The Giatras Law Firm, PLLC is a respected law firm in Charleston, West Virginia known for aggressive personal injury representation. Call us or contact our firm online to schedule a free consultation.