Senate Bill No. 637
(By Senators Unger, Foster, Kessler and Stollings)
[Introduced March 19, 2009; referred to the Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure; and then to the Committee on
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by
adding thereto a new section, designated §17C-14-15, relating
to establishing the offense of unlawful use of a wireless
communication device by texting while operating a motor
vehicle on a street or highway; providing exceptions and
conditions for certain lawful uses; definitions; misdemeanor
criminal penalties; and limitation of enforcement.
Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended
by adding thereto a new section, designated §17C-14-15, to read as
ARTICLE 14. MISCELLANEOUS RULES.
§17C-14-15. Unlawful use of wireless communication devices by texting while operating a motor vehicle;
(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, a
driver may not use a wireless communication device for texting
while operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway.
(b) This section does not apply to a driver who uses a
wireless communication for texting when:
(1) The driver immediately fears for his, her, or another
person's life or safety, or the driver believes that he, she, or
another person is, or is about to become, the victim of a criminal
(2) The driver uses the wireless communication device for
texting to contact law-enforcement authorities, emergency
personnel, to report a criminal activity, a fire, a traffic
accident, a serious road hazard, a medical emergency, a hazardous
materials emergency or any other condition which threatens bodily
injury, public health, welfare or safety;
(3) The motor vehicle is lawfully parked or safely stopped on
the berm or shoulder of a street or highway;
(4) The driver is operating an authorized emergency vehicle as
a law-enforcement officer or an emergency services provider
employed by, or as an agent of, the United States, this state, or
any county, city, town, district or political subdivision;
(5) The motor vehicle is registered to the United States, this state, or any county, city, town, district or political subdivision
(6) The vehicle is stopped as a result of an obstruction or
impediment in the road ahead.
(c) As used in this section:
(1) "Hands-free wireless communication device" means a
wireless communication device equipped with an internal feature or
function, or an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently
part of the device, by which a user engages in a conversation,
sends or receives a message, interchanges information, or otherwise
communicates without the use of either hand. However, this
definition does not preclude the use of either hand to activate,
deactivate or initiate a function of the device;
(2) "Texting" means the sending of text messages using the
Short Message Service (SMS); and
(3) "Wireless communication device" means a cellular, analog,
wireless or digital device, computer or telephone, capable of
accessing, sending or receiving wireless electronic messages,
conversation or other interchange of information, including, but
not limited to, a wireless telephone service, a wireless Internet
service or a wireless text messaging service, but does not include
voice radios, mobile radios, land mobile radios, commercial mobile
radios or two-way radios with the capability to transmit and
receive voice transmissions utilizing a "push to talk" or "press to transmit" function, or other voice radios used by a law-enforcement
officer, an emergency services provider, an employee or agent of
public safety organizations, first responders, school bus
operators, taxi cab drivers or mobile commercial enterprises.
(d) Any person who violates this section is guilty of a
misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more
than $100. No court costs or other fees shall be assessed for a
violation of this section.
(e) Enforcement of this section shall be accomplished only as
a secondary action when a driver has been detained for probable
cause of violating another section of this code or a municipal
(f) Three points may be entered on any driver's record
maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles as a result of a
violation of this section.
NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to establish the offense of
unlawful use of a wireless communication device by texting while
operating a motor vehicle on a street or highway. It provides
exceptions and conditions for certain lawful uses and definitions.
It makes a violation a misdemeanor criminal offense with fine; and
provides a limitation of enforcement.
This section is new; therefore, strike-throughs and
underscoring have been omitted.