Senate Bill No. 211
(By Senators Kessler (Mr. President) and Hall,
By Request of the Executive)
[Passed March 10, 2012; in effect ninety days from passage.]
AN ACT 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 traffic offense of operating a motor vehicle while texting without the use of hands-free technology; establishing the offense of operating a motor vehicle while using an electronic communication device without the use of hands-free technology; defining terms; providing exceptions; clarifying means of enforcement as a primary offense; impact of violation on insurance coverage; impact of violation on law enforcement ability to seize or confiscate device; requiring signage on certain highways for motorists entering state; providing penalties; providing for increased fines for multiple offenses; assessing points against driver’s license for multiple offenses; exempting offense from the assessment of court costs and fees; and limitations.
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. Prohibited use of an electronic communications devicedriving without handheld features; definitions; exceptions; penalties.
(a) Except as provided in subsection (c) of this section, a person may not drive or operate a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while:
(1) Texting; or
(2) Using a cell phone or other electronic communications device, unless the use is accomplished by hands-free equipment.
(b) For purposes of this section, the following terms shall mean:
(1) “Cell phone” shall mean a cellular, analog, wireless or digital telephone.
(2) “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 after the driver has moved the vehicle to the side of, or off, a highway and halted in a location where the vehicle can safely remain stationary.
(3) “Electronic communication device” means a cell telephone, personal digital assistant, electronic device with mobile data access, laptop computer, pager, broadband personal communication device, 2-way messaging device, electronic game, or portable computing device. 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.
(4) “Engaging in a call” means when a person talks into or listens on an electronic communication device, but shall not include when a person dials or enters a phone number on a pushpad or screen to initiate the call.
(5) “Hands-free electronic communication device” means an electronic communication device that has an internal feature or function, or that is equipped with an attachment or addition, whether or not permanently part of such electronic communication device, by which a user engages in a call without the use of either hand or both hands.
(6) “Hands-free equipment” means the internal feature or function of a hands-free electronic communication device or the attachment or addition to a hands-free electronic communication device by which a user may engage in a call or text without the use of either hand or both hands.
(7) “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 by the pressing the device in order to initiate or receive 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.
(8) “Using a cell phone or other electronic communication device” means holding in a person’s hand or hands an electronic communication device while:
(A) Viewing or transmitting images or data;
(B) Playing games;
(C) Composing, sending, reading, viewing, accessing, browsing, transmitting, saving or retrieving e-mail, text messages or other electronic data; or
(D) Engaging in a call.
(c) Subsection (a) of this section shall not apply to:
(1) A law-enforcement officer, a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, a paramedic or the operator of an authorized emergency vehicle in the performance of their official duties;
(2) A person using an electronic communication device to report to appropriate authorities a fire, a traffic accident, a serious road hazard, or a medical or hazardous materials emergencies.
(3) The activation or deactivation of hands-free equipment or a function of hands-free equipment.
(d) 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.
(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 $100; for a second offense be fined $200; and for a third or subsequent offense be fined $300. No court costs or other fees shall be assessed for a violation of subsection (a) of this section.
(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, 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 shall be enforced as a primary offense as of July 1, 2012. Driving or operating a motor vehicle on a public street or highway while using a cell phone or other electronic communication device without hands-free equipment shall be enforced as a secondary offense as of July 1, 2012, and as a primary offense as of July 1, 2013 for purposes of citation.
(h) Within ninety days of the effective date of this section, the Department of Transportation shall cause to be erected signs upon any highway entering the state of West Virginia on which a welcome to West Virginia sign is posted, and any other highway where the Division of Highways deems appropriate, posted at a distance of not more than one mile from each border crossing, each sign to bear an inscription clearly communicating to motorists entering the state that texting, or the use of a wireless communication device without hands-free equipment, is illegal within this state.
(i) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to authorize seizure of a cell phone or electronic device by any law- enforcement agency.