Highway Safety application moves forward

PARKERSBURG – Wood County commissioners on Monday approved for submission the application for a $576,100 Highway Safety grant which will now go to Charleston for review.

The application for the grant program will be forwarded to the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Program. The new grant period begins Oct. 1. The Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Highway Safety Program provides public awareness, education and enforcement of public safety laws.

The local program now covers Wood, Calhoun, Doddridge, Gilmer, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane and Wirt counties.

During a meeting Monday with the commission, Toni Tiano, Wood County grant coordinator and Mid-Ohio Valley Regional Highway Safety program director, said she expects to hear the ruling on the grant application within the next 2-3 weeks.

“How does this grant request compare to last year?” asked Commissioner Blair Couch.

“It’s about $25,000 more than last year,” Tiano said.

The grant does not require a local match.

“The vast majority of the funds, over $250,000, goes to various overtime law enforcement programs, enforcement of laws pertaining to driving under the influence; seatbelts; texting; cell phone usage; aggressive driving; speed; conducting sobriety checkpoints, and underage compliance checks. We also do child safety seat checks, public information and education programs and a variety of other activities the Governor’s Highway Safety Program has us participate in,” Tiano said.

“This year’s program will be doing more distracted driving crackdowns, including cell phone usage and texting while driving, and seatbelt enforcement. The city of Williamstown began participating in the program as well,” she said.

Williamstown began participating in the highway safety program during the past year.

“We now have 17 out of the 21 law enforcement agencies within our nine-county region taking part, everyone but Wirt, Calhoun, Gilmer and Pennsboro,” Tiano said.

“We are planning more emphasis on cracking down on texting, and cell phone usage and now that the seatbelt violation is a primary law, there will be much more enforcement on that as well. About a year ago this time, law enforcement had been writing about 50 tickets for seatbelt violations, last month there were more than 200 and some just within our region,” Tiano said.

In July, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin joined state highway safety experts, law enforcement officers, legislators, local leaders, and business and community organizations to kick-off a statewide campaign reminding motorists of the new safe driving laws that took effect.

Beginning July 1, driving while talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device became a primary offense. Starting July 9, it became a primary offense to drive or ride in a moving vehicle without wearing a seatbelt.

“Distracted driving is a serious threat to roadway safety,” Tomblin said. “During a period of seven days in June, troopers issued 93 citations for texting while driving, 127 citations for reckless driving, and eight citations for collisions involving distracted driving,” the governor said.