West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin reminded high school students Tuesday that texting while driving becomes a criminal offense in the state this summer.
Tomblin began his day in the Northern Panhandle at Brooke High School, where he spoke to students on the dangers of "distracted driving." State legislators passed a law this year stating that after July 1, texting while driving a motor vehicle will be considered a criminal offense. On July 1, 2013, talking on a cell phone while driving without using a hands-free device also becomes a criminal offense.
Tomblin asked the Brooke County students how many had driver's licenses, and a majority indicated they did. He next asked how many text on a regular basis, and nearly all raised their hands.
AWARDED THE PLEDGE PIN — West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin presents Brooke High School Student Council member Chelsea Thomas with a pin signifying her pledge to not text message while driving. -- Joselyn King
"When you're driving, you may think it's so easy to just write off a few words here and there, but you're taking your eyes off the road," Tomblin told the students. "And when you take your eyes off the road, there's a 23 percent more chance you'll have an accident than if you keep your eyes on the road.
"We need to think about what we're doing while we drive. Even though you can multi-task at many things, one of the things you should not be doing is multi-tasking behind the wheel of a car because it is very dangerous," he added.
Student council members were asked to join Tomblin on stage to sign their names on a poster pledging not to text and drive. The poster was left for other students to sign and join the effort.
Tomblin next stopped at the Brooke County Museum in Wellsburg, where he toured the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor collection housed at the library. The library is a depository for information and items pertaining to World War II military action in the South Pacific.
Tomblin moved on to Marshall County, where he presented John Marshall High School educator and baseball coach Robert Montgomery with the "Distinguished West Virginian Award."
Tomblin also made stops in Ohio County at the Cabela's Distribution Center and at Crittenton Services Inc.