Since September of 1993 West Virginia State Code states that wearing a safety belt in a motor vehicle is mandatory. This means that all drivers, all passengers in the front, and all passengers in the back under the age of 18 years must wear a seat belt. Those found in violation of this law can be fined up to $25. It is always essential to wear a safety belt, not only to avoid a costly fine, but more importantly to protect yourself in the event of an accident.
Cell Phones and Texting Laws
Texting is one of the most dangerous distractions while driving. West Virginia lawmakers have taken action to protect everyone on the road by passing a texting and use of handheld cell phone ban. The texting ban is a primary law. That means a police officer can pull you over simply for seeing you text while driving. A first offense results in a $100 fine, a second offense costs $200 and a third and any subsequent offense is a $300 fine plus three points on your license.
West Virginia is one of 11 states that prohibits the use of all handheld devices while driving. Originally, the handheld cell phone ban was a secondary law, which meant an officer can issue a ticket for using a handheld device only after pulling you over for different offense, such as running a stop sign or speeding. However, as of July 1, 2013, this ban has become a primary law.
Teen Driving Laws
West Virginia has a Graduate Driver Licensing Program (GDL), which have l been proven to reduce fatalities, lower injuries and ultimately result in safer highways and roadways. New drivers who participate in the GDL system must reach various milestones before they are allowed to graduate to a less restrictive license level and eventually receive a full unrestricted license. The GDL Program consists of three levels:
- West Virginia Level 1 Permit – In order to obtain this permit, new drivers must be a minimum of 15 years of age, must have parental consent, must provide proof of school enrollment, and must pass a knowledge and vision test. Drivers who hold a Level 1 permit may only drive while accompanied by a licensed driver that is at least 21 years of age between the hours of 5:00 am and 11:00 pm.
- West Virginia Level 2 Permit – Teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 18 that have completed all of the requirements listed above for the instruction permit are eligible for a Level 2 license. Applicants must provide a log sheet proving at least 50 hours of driving practice certified by a parent or legal guardian or present a certificate of completion from a department of education approved driver education course. Teen drivers that hold a level 2 license may drive alone between the hours of 5:00 am and 10:00 pm. Outside of those hours the teen driver must be accompanied by a licensed driver at least 21 years of age.
- West Virginia Level 3 Permit – Teen drivers must be a minimum of 17 years of age to receive a West Virginia Level 3 License. There is a zero tolerance for teen drivers that are found driving with any alcohol in their system. All passengers and the driver must wear seat belts at all times.
- Teen drivers must also be properly insured. The State of West Virginia requires all vehicles registered in the state to maintain a minimum amount of liability insurance. It is a legal requirement for all drivers to carry proof of insurance with them at all times while driving and must present this proof when requested by a law enforcement officer.
Child Car Seat Laws
Children under the age of eight and shorter than four feet nine inches tall must be in an approved child safety seat when a vehicle is in motion. Violators can be fined between $10-$20. This code does not apply to operated-for-hire vehicles.
The type of child safety seat needed depends on the child’s age and weight:
- Infants under the age of one and weighing no more than 35 pounds should be in an infant-only, rear facing child safety seat, installed in the back seat of the vehicle.
- Children between the ages of one and four and weighing between 20 and 40 pounds can be in a forward-facing, forward-facing only, or convertible child safety seat, or a high-back booster or harness, installed in the back seat of the vehicle.
- Children between the ages of four and eight can be in a high-back or no-back belt-positioning booster, installed in the back seat of the vehicle. If the child is under the age of eight, but at least four feet and nine inches tall, a booster isn’t required.
Impaired/Drunk Driving Laws
West Virginia enforces the Zero Tolerance Law. This means that drivers who are younger than 21 and drive while under the influence, of any amount of alcohol, will have their license revoked.
Below is a brief outline of DUI offenses and penalties for alcohol and other drugs.
- Zero Tolerance (younger than age 21 with any measurable amount of alcohol): You face fines from $25 to $100, and license revocation for 60 days.
- Zero Tolerance Second Offense (younger than age age 21 with any measurable amount of alcohol): You face 24 hours in jail, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation until your 21st birthday, and mandatory participation in the Interlock Program.
- DUI with Implied Consent, First Offense: You face jail time from 24 hours to six months, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation for one year.
- DUI―Alcohol or Drugs, First Offense: You face jail time from 24 hours to six months, fines from $100 to $500, and license revocation for six months.
- DUI―Alcohol or Drugs, Second Offense: You face jail time from six months to one year, fines from $1,000 to $3,000, and license revocation for 10 years (or one year followed by mandatory Interlock Program participation).
- DUI―Alcohol or Drugs, Third Offense: You face jail time from one to three years, fines from $3,000 to $5,000, and license revocation for life (or one year followed by mandatory Interlock Program participation).
If you or a loved one has been a victim of an accident involving a distracted or impaired driver, due to texting, cell phone use, or the violation of a West Virginia safety driving law, you may be eligible to collect compensation and should contact an experienced car accident lawyer. The car accident attorneys at Colombo Law, represent clients throughout West Virginia. Our firm offers free initial consultations on car accident cases.