In early February, the Virginia House and Virginia Senate voted on HB1907 and SB1222 respectively. The House passed the bill by a count of 94-4 and the Senate by 24-15. This means this bill, which makes texting while driving a primary offense that carries a mandatory fine of $200, is being taken seriously; there have been four similar failed attempts to criminalize the act in the past year alone.
Many are worried for being wrongfully charged if looking down at their phone for GPS or to make a phone call. Delegate Rich Anderson, R – Woodbridge, says people will only be ticketed for text related phone usage — so emailing, posting on FaceBook, texting, etc. The argument against texting while driving is strong. In Anderson’s district a texting driver ran off the road and into a man loading a mattress onto his car, being aided by a police officer. The man was killed and the police officer left permanently disabled. Virginia state senators argued that studies show that accidents caused by texting while driving are 23 more times likely to happen; that is comparable to getting behind the wheel of a car with a .08% blood alcohol content (the equivalent of driving while intoxicated in Virginia).
As of right now, texting is still only a secondary offense which means you must be in the act of another traffic violation in order to be ticketed for it (speeding for instance). The two bills will go to a committee to be re-worded and once the legislators have agreed upon proper language and terms they will send the bills back to the House and Senate. If these bills are passed then they may be enacted as early as April. Coincidentally, April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
If you’ve been accused recently or you are caught in the future and have a traffic charge in Prince William, Loudoun or Fairfax County call 703-218-8416 for a free consultation with Virginia traffic lawyers Alex Gordon and Carlos Wall. You may also call The Gordon Law Firm toll-free at 1-866-591-NOVA (6682).