Explaining Virginia’s Ban on Texting While Driving
Like many other states Virginia bans the use of cell phones to text or to read emails when driving.
Although most people know it’s illegal to text, there is still confusion about some aspects of this law. At the recent Virginia Trial Lawyers Association convention, my friend Barbara Williams, an attorney from western Virginia, presented a paper on The Ins and Outs of Distracted Driving Evidence.
In 2009, the Virginia state legislature passed a statute related to the use of smart phones to text or read emails behind the wheel. Originally, a driver could not be charged with violating the statute as a primary offence. The driver had to be pulled over for another offense. However, as of April 2013, the statute was amended and new penalties were added. The statute states it is unlawful to “manually enter multiple letters or text … as a means of communication with another person” or “read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device.”
There are some exceptions to the ban that does not apply to:
1. The operator of any emergency vehicle while he is engaged in the performance of his official duties;
2. An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped;
3. The use of global positioning systems (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system; or
4. Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.
A violation of the legislation is a traffic infraction punishable, for a first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $250. It remains to be seen how effective the ban is.
This year Fox News reported that the ban on texting is being widely ignored in Virginia and elsewhere. The story suggested the sanctions for texting should be more Draconian.
The story considered distracted driving in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia, states that all introduced bans in recent years.
“Studies show texting and driving are akin to drinking and driving. However, the penalties for using a handheld cell phone and texting pale in comparison to DUI, even though distracted driving is just as deadly,” the story stated.
Fox reported in 2013, the first six months of Virginia’s texting ban, the state tallied 725 convictions for texting.
“D.C., the first in the region to ban handheld cell phones in 2009, saw a spike in tickets peaking at 14,580. Since 2010, it’s declined by nearly half. It’s unclear if that’s because fewer people are violating the ban, less enforcement or drivers are better at hiding it,” the story stated.
If you have been hurt in an accident involving a distracted driver or if you have lost a loved one, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 757.455.0077.