Trying to make our roads safer

Driving has become more of a necessity on in our daily lives, with most of us needing a vehicle to go to work, go to the store or travel for vacation.

More cars are on the road, and that means more drivers and passengers are out there with a need to obey the laws of those roads.

Driving has always been considered a privilege, and most of us growing up were told we needed to be responsible in order to keep that privilege.

There are many rules to remember, whether it be when to adjust your mirrors, obeying the speed limit, how to pass or the appropriate distance to keep between two vehicles.

The biggest thing is to pay attention to what is going on around you and not allow yourself to get distracted.

That is when accidents happen, so they say, and when accidents happen people get hurt.

With modern technology, there are more gadgets and gizmos included in our vehicle which could potentially cause a distraction.

Where we used to have just a radio, there now are CD players, GPS systems, video camera displays and other doodads.

Then, there are distractions of the hand-held variety.

Cell phones and texting are great to keep us connected, but all too often people have decided to try and use these devices while driving, thus taking their eyes off the road and creating a major risk to themselves and others.

In recent years, many states, including West Virginia, have worked to cut back on those risks.

The Mountain State implemented a ban on texting while driving, which has been in effect for almost a year. Later this year, drivers seen using their cell phone while operating their car also will face penalties.

The only way to avoid it is to use a hands-free device, such as a Bluetooth or voice-operated system which is included in more and more automobiles these days.

So far, I haven’t heard of much difficulty in people adjusting to the new laws. I do occasionally see some people sitting at stop lights checking their phone, but that’s usually it.

Ohio’s texting ban went into effect earlier this year.

But, there is much more going on than simply keeping those mobile devices out of our hands, and keeping our hands on the wheel.

This past week, West Virginia took things a step further, passing legislation connected with one of our best known driving laws.

Upon being signed by Gov. Tomblin, a new law will be enacted making it a first-degree offense to be in a motor vehicle without having your seatbelt buckled.

It’s something we’re taught to do at an early age, but there still are those who drive or ride in a car without buckling their seatbelt. There are even alerts in many cars to remind us to put those seatbelts on.

It should just be habit now, but some still don’t do it.

For years, it was a secondary offense in West Virginia, meaning law enforcement had to see something else wrong and pull you over for that before they could cite you for a seatbelt violation.

Perhaps you had a tail light that wasn’t working properly, or you made an illegal lane change. A?police officer could pull you over for those issues, and then cite you for the seatbelt if he sees you’re not wearing it.

If this new law goes into effect, that is all law enforcement will need.

It will truly put more power and importance behind the phrase, “Click it or ticket.”

Ultimately, as with any law, the roads will only be as safe as we make them.

The laws are there and can be enforced, but it is up to us to follow them.

If we allow ourselves to be distracted, text or talk while we drive, or don’t wear our seatbelts, it won’t matter what law is on the books. We still risk the possibility of an accident and hurting ourselves and others.

Each of us is responsible for taking the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety while on the roads.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)