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Distraction restrictions for West Virginia teen drivers

The graduated licensing program in West Virginia prepares teens by building driving skills through a series of steps. Novices qualify for instructions permits, move to intermediate licenses and eventually acquire full driving privileges, provided all requirements are fulfilled.

West Virginia driving permits are issued to teens, ages 15 to 17. Permit holders may drive only when accompanied by an adult, during 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., with a limit of two additional non-family passengers. Texting and cellphone use are forbidden.

A teen must be at least 16, after holding a permit for at least six months, to qualify for an intermediate license. The provisional license is issued following the successful completion of a road test and certification of at least 50 hours of driving time, including 10 hours of nighttime driving.

Intermediate license holders may drive without adult supervision between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m., but may not be accompanied any non-family passengers under age 20 for six months. After the initial period, only one non-family passenger is permitted. No texting or cellphone activity is allowed.

A full class license may be obtained at age 17, provided the teen has held an intermediate license for a minimum of one year, with no traffic infractions. Hand-held cellphone use is banned for all state drivers.

Some provisional license restrictions are based on distracted driver research. A video study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concluded, when peers accompanied a teen driver, loud conversations and horseplay occurred more often than when passengers were family members. The study also noted electronic devices were temptations that diverted new drivers' attention away from the road.

Results of the teen study may not surprise you. In fact, the same or similar distractions affect many adult drivers in Charleston. Distracted driving is a form of negligence, that may lead to criminal charges and civil claims related to auto accident injuries and deaths.

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