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Introduced Version Senate Bill 637 History

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sb637 intr
Senate Bill No. 637

(By Senators Unger, Foster, Kessler and Stollings)

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[Introduced March 19, 2009; referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure; and then to the Committee on the Judiciary.]

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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 follows:

ARTICLE 14. MISCELLANEOUS RULES.

§17C-14-15. Unlawful use of wireless communication devices by texting while operating a motor vehicle; exceptions; penalty.

(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 act;
(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 thereof; or
(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 ordinance.
(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.
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