West Virginia, Idaho Pass Bans on Texting Behind the Wheel

Idaho and West Virginia last week joined the majority of states that prohibit any driver from texting while driving after governors there signed off on statewide bans on the practice.

Govs. C.L. “Butch” Otter of Idaho and Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia approved the laws. Idaho’s law goes into effect July 1, while West Virginia’s kicks in on June 8. There are currently 37 states that ban all drivers from texting behind the wheel, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Fines, Penalties for Violators

The West Virginia law’s texting restriction, which began as SB 211, will be considered a primary offense, allowing law enforcement officers who suspect a motorist is texting behind the wheel to make a traffic stop.

Also, SB 211 makes talking on a handheld device a secondary offense, meaning police can only issue a ticket in addition to a separate violation.

The law also institutes a $100 fine for first-time violators that ramps up with more offenses. A third violation brings a $300 fine and will be recorded as three points against the offender’s license.

Idaho’s law, SB 1274, will institute an $85 fine for offenders who text while driving and categorizes the violation as a primary offense.

Insurance Implications for Violations of Cell Phone Bans

Idaho’s legislation specifically states that texting while driving will not be classified as a moving violation that insurance companies can use as cause to raise premiums.

In West Virginia, however, third and subsequent violations of this ban will each add three points to the offender’s driving record, a development which can lead to increased premiums, depending on the insurance company and its pricing methods.

That’s a fact that parents of young drivers might want to keep in mind, since the price of car insurance for teenagers is already high.

Teenagers have been a focus of both pieces of legislation because of their proclivity for using phones behind the wheel.

In Idaho, debate in the state Legislature included testimony from the Sauers, a family who lost a teenage daughter in a crash in January that authorities say involved distracted driving. The Sauers’ 18-year-old daughter had been texting and communicating on Facebook shortly before her death on the roadway, authorities say.

About Matthew Morisset
Matthew Morisset is a proud alumnus of the University of Redlands, where he obtained a degree in English Literature. Utilizing his passion for analysis and writing, Matthew looks for important trends in the auto insurance industry and their implications for consumers and the market as a whole.

No comments yet.

Comment on this article