CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Juggling the phone, pushing his reading glasses up his nose and trying to steer, Kanawha Sheriff John Rutherford knocked a few orange cones as he zipped a golf cart around a course set up outside the county courthouse.
His top speed was about 10 mph but he was having difficulty maneuvering the shiny black sheriff's department cart and reading the texts popping up on his cellphone.
Sgt. Justin Thaxton and Cpl. Paxton Lively were sending text messages to drivers as they steered around the orange-coned course, trying and succeeding in being a distraction.
The sheriff took me on a spin around the course to demonstrate after I failed to navigate the course without casualty.
His department regularly takes the course on the road to area schools. The goal is to teach young people the dangers of distracted driving.
"It's been an eye-opener for a lot of people, especially these young people," Rutherford said steering around the course. "They have a hard time realizing how much they lose control in just a second or two."
At Tuesday's event, anyone was welcome to test his or her skills with a phone behind the wheel. Kanawha County Prosecutor Mark Plants and county engineer John Luoni gave it a shot as did members of the public and the media.
There were also vendors on hand from nTelos and AT&T to show customers the various hands-free devices they offer. Coupons were disseminated.
Texting while driving has been illegal since last July, but on Monday it becomes illegal for drivers to use their cellphones while driving without a hands-free device.
Serious fines follow if you're caught on the phone behind the wheel. A first offense warrants a $100 fine, second offense is a $200 fine and the third and subsequent offense gets a $300 fine. Rutherford said deputies would be out starting Monday to enforce the distracted driving law.
Starting July 9 officers can pull over motorists for not wearing a seatbelt. Click it or ticket, as they say.
With his cellphone in his left hand resting against the wheel, Rutherford was steering with his right hand, though he also used his left somewhat to drive. The winding course was similar to the roads the state has to offer with wide turns and hairpin curves.
"It's hard to concentrate on what you're doing even at 10 miles an hour," he said. "It's difficult."