Texting Ban Bill Praised

Charleston, SC: Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, along with the trucking industry and federal transportation officials, promoted safe trucking -- and the texting ban bill.

The American Trucking Association had its America's Road Team and its Interstate One trucking safety education tractor-trailer on the Capitol campus.

They capped the day at a joint press conference with Tomblin, West Virginia Trucking Association president Jan Vineyard and National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman Chris Hart.

"Driving safely on the highways is our number one priority in the trucking industry," Vineyard said. "Our truck drivers see the impact of distracted driving every day."

She quoted a Virginia Tech highway study that reported texting multiplies a driver's crash risk 23 times. DUI multiplies it only four times.

Truckers support SB 211, she said. The bill passed the Senate last week and is pending before the House Judiciary Committee. It makes texting while driving a primary offense and hand-held cell phone use a secondary offense.

"Texting while driving has become a major hazard on our West Virginia roads," Tomblin said. "Frankly, too many people have died, and too many people have already been seriously injured due to distracted driving caused by cell phone use, including texting."

West Virginia would join with 37 other states to ban texting while driving -- 34 of those make it a primary offense.

"Today, I call upon the members of the House of Delegates to join with the members of our state Senate and pass this important piece of legislation," Tomblin said. "Having a law on the books of West Virginia will encourage drivers to put the phone down and drive."

Hart said the fight against texting is a three-legged stool: A ban, enforcement and education. "This is a mindset shift, just like drinking while driving and seat belt use."

America's Team Captain Clarence Jenkins, of Poca, has logged 4.2 million miles of accident-free driving. "The most important thing we can do is to make sure each and every one of us returns to our most important stop -- and that's home to our families each and every day," he said. "Banning [texting] for all motorists will do nothing but save lives."

After the conference, Tomblin said he knows of no problems with the bill in the House. He spoke with Speaker Rick Thompson, DWayne, last week and "everything was a go."

Thompson's spokeswoman Stacey Ruckle said in an email exchange Wednesday afternoon: "The speaker supports the governor's texting bill and believes it will pass the House, having passed the House last year. Right now it is in the hands of the Judiciary Committee for review and we'll await the work of that committee."