Distracted drivers are all over the roads here in North Central West Virginia, from Morgantown to Clarksburg and beyond. All you have to do is look to your left or right when you’re stopped at a traffic light, and you’ll likely see a driver with their head down returning a text or taking a call with their phone in their hand. 

The prevalence of cell phones and the apparent need to stay connected at all times have turned a simple trip to the grocery store into a roll of the dice—no matter how safe of a driver you are, your safety is put in jeopardy by those who aren’t focused on operating their own vehicle. 

THE DANGER

The Nation Safety Council reported that 26% of all car accidents in the US are caused by cell phone usage. In 2010, State Farm released a report that mobile phone use annually resulted in 636,000 crashes, 330,000 personal injuries, 12,000 major injuries, 2,700 deaths, and $43 billion in damages. Those numbers are per year. And those numbers have undoubtedly gone up significantly since 2010. 

As personal injury attorneys here in West Virginia, we know how a car accident can affect your life. You may walk away from a car wreck relatively unhurt, but those that are less lucky may have broken bones, head injuries, or permanent disabilities. Some don’t survive at all. 

THE LAW

West Virginia—along with 3/4 of the rest of the country—have passed laws restricting the use of cell phones and mobile devices while driving. Initially, the law stated that any use of a cell phone while driving was a secondary offense. This means that you couldn’t be pulled over for using a mobile device, unless you were breaking another law such as speeding. However, cell phone usage while driving moved up to a primary offense in 2013, which means you can get pulled over and fined for having your phone in your hand while operating your vehicle. 

Any motorist caught using their cell phone (without a hands-free device) while driving in WV is subject to the following consequences:

  • First offense: $100 fine
  • Second offense: $200 fine
  • Third and subsequent offenses: $300 fine and three points entered on a driver’s record

WHY DO DRIVERS STILL DO IT THEN?

We know the risks. We’ve heard the horror stories. Many of us have actually seen or been involved in an accident that was caused by distracted driving. So why do people still insist on using their phones while driving?

We as a modern, connected society are so conditioned to sending and receiving immediate responses to one another that to wait for a response may signal rejection. This often causes anxiety for those who know they are receiving texts or calls because they simply don’t want to miss something. Receiving texts, calls, and comments on social media posts release a hormone called dopamine that affects your brain in a very similar way to gambling or drugs. This means that many of us are literally “addicted to our phones.” 

So what can we do to be safer? Some experts recommend to put your phone in your trunk to eliminate the temptation to check it while driving. Many phone models like the newer iPhones have a safeguard you can activate that will disable your phone’s texting and app usage when in a vehicle. Many popular hands-free devices offer safer alternatives to taking your hands off the wheel and eyes on the road. But ultimately the power is with the driver, so education is key. 

If you’ve been hurt in a car accident due to someone who may have been using their phone while driving, you owe it to yourself to seek counsel with an experienced personal injury attorney. Call the lawyers at Mountain State Law at 304-715-3800 or request a free consultation by clicking HERE.