West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on April 3 signed into law a bill that prohibits text messaging and handheld cell phone use while driving.

The new law takes effect July 1. Violators will be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense and $300 for the third offense. Three points will also be assessed against driver’s licenses on third and subsequent violations.

Text messaging while driving will be a primary offense beginning July 1.

Handheld cell phone use while driving will be limited to secondary enforcement on July 1, but the violation will become a primary offense one year later on July 1, 2013. In other words, law enforcement officers beginning July 1, 2013 will be able to pull over and ticket drivers solely for using a cell phone while operating a vehicle; officers will no longer need to witness another offense to stop the driver.

The passage of the law makes West Virginia the 36th state to ban text messaging while driving. The state also became the 10th state to prohibit all handheld cell phone use while driving.

“Distracted driving increasingly seems to be the underlying cause of many traffic crashes, not only in West Virginia but throughout the country,” said West Virginia State Police Col. C. R. “Jay” Smithers. “This new law should be successful in preventing a great deal of loss to both property and human lives.”