Senate Bill No. 211
(By Senators Kessler (Mr. President) and Hall,
By Request of the Executive)
[Originating in the Committee on the Judiciary;
reported February 1, 2012.]
A BILL to amend the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, by adding thereto a new section, designated §17C-14-15, relating to traffic safety; establishing the offense of operating a motor vehicle while sending or reading a text message or using a wireless communication device without hands-free technology; providing exceptions; providing definitions; and providing penalties.
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 follows:
ARTICLE 14. MISCELLANEOUS RULES.
§17C-14-15. Writing, sending or reading a text message by means of an electronic communications device or using a
wireless communication device while driving unlawful;
definitions; exceptions; penalties.
(a) Except as provided in subdivision (b) of this section, a person may not drive or operate a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while texting or using a wireless communication device without hands-free equipment.
(b) A driver is permitted to use an electronic communication device to text or a wireless communication device without hands-free technology to call while driving during an emergency, when it is necessary for the driver to contact law-enforcement officials or other emergency services.
(c) This section does not supersede the provisions of section three-a, article two, chapter seventeen-b of this code or any more restrictive provisions for drivers of commercial motor vehicles prescribed by the provisions of chapter seventeen-e of this code or federal law or rule.
(d) As used in this section:
(1) “Driving” or “operating a motor vehicle” means operating a motor vehicle, with the motor running, including while temporarily stationary because of traffic, a traffic control device, or other momentary delays, but does not include operating a motor vehicle when the driver moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway and halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary;
(2) “Electronic communication device” includes, but is not limited to, a cellular telephone; personal digital assistant; pager; computer; or any other device used to input, write, send, receive or read text. For the purposes of this section, an “electronic communication device” does not include:
(A) 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
(B) Other voice radios used by a law-enforcement officer, an emergency services provider, an employee or agent of public safety organizations, first responders, Amateur Radio Operators(HAM) licensed by the Federal Communications Commission and school bus operators;
(3) “Texting” means manually entering alphanumeric text into, or reading text from, an electronic communication device, and includes, but is not limited to, short message service, e-mailing, instant messaging, a command or request to access a World Wide Web page or engaging in any other form of electronic text retrieval or entry, for present or future communication. For purposes of this section, “texting” does not include the following actions:
(A) Reading, selecting or entering a telephone number, an extension number, or voicemail retrieval codes and commands into an electronic device for the purpose of initiating or receiving a phone call or using voice commands to initiate or receive a telephone call;
(B) Inputting, selecting or reading information on a global positioning system or navigation system; or
(C) Using a device capable of performing multiple functions, including fleet management systems, dispatching devices, smart phones, citizens band radios or music players, for a purpose that is not otherwise prohibited in this section.
(e) Any person who violates the provisions of subsection (a) of this section is guilty of a traffic offense and, upon conviction thereof, shall for a first offense be fined $50; for a second offense be fined $100; and for a third or subsequent offense be fined $200. No court costs or other fees shall be assessed for a violation of subsection (a).
(f) Notwithstanding any other provision of this code to the contrary, points may not be entered on any driver’s record maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles as a result of a violation of this section, except for the third and subsequent convictions of the offense of texting while driving, for which three points shall be entered on any driver’s record maintained by the Division of Motor Vehicles.
(g) Driving or operating a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while texting, except as provided in subdivision (b) of this section, shall be a primary offense for citation. Using a wireless communication device without hands-free equipment for any other purpose prohibited in this section shall be a secondary offense for purposes of citation.
(NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to create the secondary offense of operating a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device without hands-free technology, and a primary offense of texting while operating a motor vehicle.)