BECKLEY (AP) - More than 280 motorists have been cited for distracted driving violations in West Virginia since a new law went into effect July 1.
The law makes using a handheld cellphone while driving a primary offense. It also bans texting while driving.
Fines for both offenses are the same, $100 for a first offense and $200 for a second violation. Subsequent offenses carry $300 fines.
Officers with the Governor's Highway Safety Program issued 286 citations and gave 108 warnings to motorists from July 1 to Nov. 30, Beckley Police Capt. Lonnie Christian told The Register-Herald.
"The whole thing with the law is to make sure people have their hands on the wheel and that they aren't more concentrated on the phone than what's in front of them," Christian told the newspaper. "If your phone is not in your hand, it's not a violation."
Officers began a media blitz to alert drivers of the new law a year before it went into effect. But some drivers did not get the message, said Lt. Paul Blume, coordinator for the highway safety program's Southern Region.
"You still have a certain amount of people, that no matter how much you've reached out with media and information, they're going to do what they want," he told the newspaper.
"You can drive around on any given day and still see people doing it," Blume said. "I think the law enforcement and media exposure has made a difference, but anybody can tell you it's still a problem and still, probably, the No. 1 contributor to crashes."
Blume said there is a sustained effort in southern West Virginia to curb distracted driving. A law enforcement campaign targeting drivers using cell phones is planned in the spring.
Motorists are still allowed to use cell phones to report accidents and other emergencies.