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The days of legally driving while texting in West Virginia are numbered, with a new ban that gradually targets hands-on cell phone chatter becoming law Friday.
The distracted driving measure is among nearly 70 bills passed by the Legislature during this year's regular session taking effect that day.
But law enforcement won't begin pulling over motorists for texting until July 1, under the new law's provisions. While drivers can be cited for hands-on cell phone use as of that date, that violation alone cannot trigger a traffic stop. Hands-on cell phone use becomes a primary offense, one that can get a motorist pulled over, starting in July 2013.
State Police Superintendent Jay Smithers is expecting his officers to apply common sense once enforcement begins, acknowledging the learning curve involved with this law targeting a common but dangerous habit, said Sgt. Mike T. Baylous, a department spokesman.
"Col. Smithers has made it very clear to the troops that he wants them to be reasonable, to use their discretion," Baylous said Wednesday.
In the meantime, the State Police, the Division of Highways, the Department of Health and Human Resources — officials consider this a public health issue — and other agencies will try to inform the public of the approaching ban. This effort will include road signs, speaking to high school students once classes resume in the fall and updating the Division of Motor Vehicles' driver license handbook.
"We'll be utilizing our social media, whether through our Facebook page or Twitter," said Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker.
The campaign also will include the safe driver pledge that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has begun promoting among college and high school students and others. It calls on motorists to to avoid distracted driving.
"If you want to stop texting now, we want you to. We aren't condoning texting, ever, so we're hoping people stop tomorrow," Walker said. He also said, "We just know that it's become a part of the fabric of society. We want to put great effort into educating and informing."
At least 39 states ban texting while driving. Nearly 5,500 people across the country were killed in crashes involving driver distraction in 2009 and another 448,000 people were injured, according to the latest figures analyzed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Sixteen percent of all fatal accidents that year involved reports of distracted driving, and teen drivers were more likely than those in other age group to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported, the agency says.
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Contact: Ashley Ginascol (312-729-3622)
NITRO HIGH SCHOOL STANDOUT NAMED GATORADE® WEST VIRGINIA BASEBALL PLAYER OF THE YEAR
CHICAGO (May 30, 2012) — In its 27th year of honoring the nation’s best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with ESPNHS, today announced Korey Dunbar of Nitro High School as its 2011-12 Gatorade West Virginia Baseball Player of the Year. Dunbar is the third Gatorade West Virginia Baseball Player of the Year to be chosen from Nitro High School.
The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field, distinguishes Dunbar as West Virginia’s best high school baseball player. Now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade National Baseball Player of the Year award announced in May, Dunbar joins an elite alumni association of past state baseball award winners, including Derek Jeter (1991-92, Kalamazoo HS, Mich.), Roy Halladay (1994-95, Arvada West HS, Colo.), David Price (2003-04, Blackman HS, Tenn.), Chipper Jones (1989-90, Bolles School, Fla.), Derek Lee (1992-93, El Camino HS, Calif.) and John Lester (2001-02, Bellarmine Prep, Wash.).
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound senior catcher led the Wildcats to a 26-9 record and a berth in the Class AAA state semifinals against Fairmont Senior High, scheduled for May 31. The All-Mountain State Athletic Conference Player of the Year, Dunbar batted .462 with nine home runs and 34 RBI through 35 games this season. He produced a .637 on-base percentage and .901 slugging percentage. Also a right-handed relief pitcher, Dunbar owned a 4-2 record with eight saves and a 0.53 ERA in 53 innings pitched. He led the South Carolina Diamond Devils 17U Black squad to the CABA 18U Wooden Bat World Series national championship this past summer, recording two hits in the title game.
Dunbar has maintained a 4.30 weighted GPA in the classroom. A member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honor society, he has volunteered on behalf of H20 for Life as a fundraiser for the construction of a well in Ngome, South Africa.
“He’s a great catcher, and he’s always been a good hitter,” said Robert Massey, head coach at rival Capital High. “He instills fear in his opponents. He’s the one kid that—if there weren’t a ton of scouts watching—I would’ve walked him every time. I walked him with the bases loaded. It’s a lot easier to give up one run than four. The kid can hit. He’s a specimen.”
Dunbar has signed a National Letter of Intent to play baseball on scholarship at the University of North Carolina this fall, but is projected as an early round selection in next month’s Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by ESPNHS and the Gatorade high school sports leadership team, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.
Dunbar joins recent Gatorade West Virginia Baseball Players of the Year Tyler Payne (2010-11, Hurricane High School), J.R. Bradley (2009-10, Nitro), Corey Miller (2008-09; Cabell Midland), Chase Pickering (2007-08, Nitro), and Patrick Arnold (2006-07, Huntington), among the state’s list of former award winners.
To keep up to date on the latest happenings, become a fan of Gatorade Player of the Year on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of past winners, and the announcement of the Gatorade National Player of the Year, visit playeroftheyear.gatorade.com.