W.Va. buckles down with new seat belt law in effect

PARKERSBURG – “Click it or ticket” took on a new life in West Virginia Tuesday.

The West Virginia State Police said the seat belt law became a primary offense as of July 9. The law requires drivers and passengers in the front seats to wear a safety restraint, officials said.

Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department said the main part of the law is to let drivers know they are responsible for everyone in their vehicle.

“We understand that this law will be difficult for those people who grew up not having a seat belt law,” Collins said. “No adult wants to be told what to do; but as the seat belt and cell phone laws remain in place over time, there will be a generation of people who have never known any different.”

If pulled over, the driver is the one who gets the ticket, a $25 fine with no court costs associated with it, Collins said. As a reminder, people can be pulled over for not having children properly secured in their vehicle, he said.

“Seat belts save lives. It’s really that simple,” Collins said. “And for the most part, people are doing really well wearing them.”

The law states those in the back seat 18 years and older are not required to wear a seat belt.

A medical exemption can be obtained from a physician and the law does not change the existing child restraint law, police said. As the current requirements state, children under the age of 8 must be in an approved booster/child safety restraint device.

If the child is 8 years old but at least 4 feet 9 inches tall a regular safety belt is sufficient, the law states.

The state police asks for the public’s help in reducing the number of fatalities on roadways in the state, by following the new safety belt law.

Sgt. Brett Pickens with the Wood County Sheriff’s Office said the new law will help deputies keep area roadways safe.

“We’re not going to see this immediately but over time this is going to reduce the number of serious injury crashes and fatal crashes,” Pickens said. “I think it’s going to increase our seat belt usage overt time once people get familiar with the law.”

The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program had a vital role in the new law.

Toni Tiano with the Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Highway Safety Program said the law should result in fewer fatalities because there should be fewer ejections from vehicles and fewer serious injuries.

“We are very excited,” she said of the highway safety program. “It’s been a long time coming and West Virginia is getting in line with other states.”

Bob Tipton, the head of the highway safety program in Charleston, was rightly involved in getting the law passed and area directors hope it will reinforce the law because law enforcement officers don’t need any other reason to pull someone over, Tiano said.

On July 1, talking on a cellular phone while driving was made a primary violation.

“We have received money for aggressive driving, special grants just for texting, not using your seat belt and talking on the phone,” Pickens said of the sheriff’s office and statewide agencies. “Don’t be surprised to see the sheriff’s office out in unmarked vehicles enforcing the cell phone and texting law.”

The numbers don’t lie. Pickens said while a vehicle is traveling down the interstate at 70 mph it is going 102 feet every second. The average time a person’s eyes leave the road to text, about three to five seconds, he or she has traveled three to 600 feet with their eyes off the road.