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Texting, phone bans linked to West Virginia fatal crash decline

West Virginia drivers have had to adjust to new laws in recent years that prohibited previously acceptable activities. Texting while driving was outlawed statewide in 2012. The following year, lawmakers approved a ban on handheld cellphone use for all state drivers.

State transportation officials believe these changes had a great deal to do with a sharp drop in the West Virginia traffic fatality rate. The rate fell 18 percent from 332 deaths in 2013 to 271 fatalities in 2014.

Ours is not the only state to take texting and cellphone warnings seriously. Evidence showing the dangers of distracted driving has convinced states across the country to reform laws. In 2011, cellphone use was linked to 23 percent of accidents nationwide or about 1.3 million motor vehicle accidents.

Research has shown listening to or talking on cellphones increases chances for an accident by 1.3 times. The risks are even higher when drivers reach for or dial a cellphone. The likelihood of a crash soars up to 23 times if a person texts while driving.

The drivers most likely to text or talk are the ones with the least driving experience - teens. More than one-third of teens surveyed confessed to texting and driving, with more than half admitting they talked on cellphones while driving. Seventy-seven percent of respondents felt they could text safely while operating a vehicle.

How did these bad habits develop? Fifteen percent of teens have observed parents texting behind the wheel. Forty-eight percent have seen parents drive while talking on cellphones.

Driving is an activity made less safe by doing several things simultaneously, no matter how valuable multi-tasking is in other situations. The consequences of not paying attention, even for a few seconds, can be devastating to errant drivers and the people they hurt needlessly. Personal injury claims allow West Virginia victims of negligent drivers to receive compensation for injuries.

Source:, "DWI: Driving while intexticated" accessed Mar. 25, 2015

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