Cell phone user? Steer clear

A lot has changed in the past quarter-century.

Can you imagine pulling out in your new car in 1988 and seeing countless other drivers speeding by, eyes downward, reading a stack of index cards or their daily newspaper?

That would have seemed very peculiar, indeed.

Yet here we are, 25 years later, and it is not uncommon to pass other drivers who are either talking using new technology – a mobile phone or texting away furiously, all while looking at something other than the road in front of them.

It’s frightening.

It’s been against the law in West Virginia since 2012. As of July 1, it became a primary offense in our state.

We’ve had a year to adjust our behavior. Law enforcement officials have made it clear. They will be looking for offenders.

While much has changed, some things haven’t. Folks will continue to engage in risky behavior on our highways.

But our hope is that enforcement of this law will cause drivers to put the mobile device down while driving and concentrate on arriving safely instead.

— From the June 28

Register-Herald of Beckley



Gay rights are civil rights

Until recently, U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd had served more time in Congress than anyone in American history. He had a tremendous impact on the course of West Virginia and, to a lesser degree, the course of this nation.

But until the day he died in 2010 – indeed, even after he died – Byrd’s legislative legacy was marred by his filibuster against the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964. Byrd attempted to deny U.S. citizens rights owed to them, because of something they could not control: the color of their skin.

To his credit, Byrd came to realize how wrong he was. He got behind other civil rights initiatives in his later years and proudly supported the nation’s first African-American president.

Now another U.S. senator from West Virginia faces a similar moral decision. Many times Joe Manchin has expressed his admiration for Byrd. Manchin should follow Byrd’s belated example on civil rights and extend some basic rights to gay, lesbians and transgender people.

Almost every Democratic senator, and at least two Republican senators have thrown their support behind the federal Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would prohibit hiring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

The federal law is needed because some states – including West Virginia – have shown themselves unwilling to extend basic protections to gays, lesbians and transgender people.

Politically, this is a tough position for Manchin. As historian John Alexander Williams noted earlier this month, West Virginia is belying its historical roots by aligning with the Deep South for the first time in its 150-year history. At a time when much of the nation moves forward culturally, this state steps backward.

But by battling the National Rifle Association, his longtime ally, Manchin has shown he’s willing to take political risks to do the right thing. And ethically, there should be no question on this issue. There are thousands of West Virginians – people Manchin was elected to represent – who can’t enjoy the basic rights of their neighbors. Those West Virginians have committed no crime, but they are being punished.

Sen. Joe Manchin has a chance to stand up for them. We hope he does.

— From the July 1

The Charleston Gazette


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