Traffic Safety Laws in West Virginia
Where to Find Them
Most of West Virginia's road rules become second nature through our years of driving, observation, and driver's education.
However, because laws often change, sometimes we don't know all the road rules we think we do. Two great resources for safety laws are West Virginia Code, Chapter 17: Roads and Highways and the Driver Licensing Handbook (REV 2017).
Below is information about some of the most commonly-asked about safety laws in West Virginia.
In West Virginia, wearing your safety belt in a motor vehicle is mandatory―and not just during the annual statewide Click It or Ticket campaigns.
- All drivers must wear a seat belt.
- All passengers in the front must wear a seat belt.
- All passengers in the back under 18 years old must wear a seat belt.
- Violators can be fined up to $25.
Physical handicaps sometimes make it impossible to safely wear a seat belt. For more information about West Virginia seat belt waivers and how to obtain one, please refer to our Drivers with Disabilities section.
Child Car Seat
In West Virginia, children under 8 years old and 4 ft 9 in tall or shorter must be in an approved child safety seat if the vehicle is in motion.
In order to make sure your child is a safe as possible when riding in a vehicle check out Safe Kids This site gives excellent guidelines for child restraint systems, will notify you of recalls and changes in laws concerning child restraint systems.
Violators can be fined between $10 to $20.
Note that this code does not apply to operated-for-hire vehicles.
Before buying a child car seat, make sure to read our article on How To Buy a Child Safety Seat.
Cell Phones and Texting
Cell phone restrictions:
- All drivers, regardless of age, are banned from using hand-held cell phones.
- Drivers under 18 years old who hold a permit or an intermediate license cannot use a wireless communication device (this includes hands free) unless they are contacting the 9-1-1 system
- All drivers, regardless of age, are banned from texting while driving.
Bicycle, Motorcycle, and ATV Helmets
Are helmets required in West Virginia?
- Bicycle riders: For riders under 15 years old, yes!
- Motorcycle riders and passengers: Yes!
- ATV riders: For riders under 18 years old, yes!
Our guide, How To Buy the Right Helmet, outlines what to look for when you're shopping for a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)-approved helmet.
Every motor vehicle in West Virginia must have2 headlights in the front (one on each side), and every motorcycle or similar vehicle must have at least 1 headlight but no more than 2 headlights.
Of course, you need to know when to use those headlights, right? West Virginia State Code 17C-15-2 states:
- School buses and motorcycles, including similar vehicles such as mopeds, must use headlights every time they're on the highway.
- Every other motor vehicle must use headlights from sunset to sunrise, and when lighting is poor enough that they can't see other drivers and vehicles within 500 ft.
- When there is unfavorable conditions that affect visibility such as: fog, rain, snow, and smoke.
Unattended Motor Vehicles
West Virginians are not allowed to leave their motor vehicles running unattended. By law, a driver must turn off the car, lock the ignition, and remove the key. Leaving an unattended motor vehicle running is a misdemeanor and carries a first-offense fine of up to $100. Subsequent offenses will incur heavier fines.
Unattended Children and Pets
Leaving children or pets unattended in vehicles is dangerous for a variety of reasons. It can kill or injure (especially in hot or cold weather) and it may be illegal in your municipality. It also puts them at risk for kidnapping (or petnapping), and curious children may be tempted to push pedals or turn keys.
The best, point blank advice is to just never leave your child or pet unattended in a vehicle, regardless of the climate, the neighborhood, or whether you took the keys with you.
Reporting Unsafe and/or Drunk Drivers
Driving drunk is cause for automatic license revocation.
If you suspect someone is driving recklessly or while intoxicated, call 911 or the West Virginia State Police for instructions.