New Virginia Work Zone Texting and Driving Law Comes into Force
Construction zones are dangerous places for workers and other drivers. When drivers are looking at their phones, the risks increase. A new Virginia work zone texting and driving law doubles fines for distracted motorists in these zones.
The law, HB1525, went into effect on July 1. Drivers who are caught texting or reading their emails in a work zone when “workers are present” now face mandatory fines of $250.
Although the Virginia work zone texting and driving law was passed, a more sweeping measure that would have banned hand-held phone use altogether failed to pass through the legislature.
The House and Senate passed measures with different restrictions but could not agree on changes as the 2018 session came to an end. That meant the current law banning only text entry remains in place outside work zones.
Texting and driving has been a primary offense in Virginia since 2013. That means police officers don’t need another reason to pull over drivers they believe are texting. Under the law, drivers are fined $125 for a first offense. The fine is doubled under the new Virginia work zone texting and driving law
The new law came into effect on July 1 and will impact drivers making trips over the July 4 holiday.
Work zones are extremely hazardous places for construction workers and other drivers. Often motorists fail to slow down. Being distracted heightens the risks.
These areas are especially dangerous for VDOT workers and contractors. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers won a $2.86 million settlement for a construction worker who suffered a double amputation after he was hit by a drunk driver on I-264 in Norfolk.
Chief Deputy Commissioner of VDOT Rob Cary warned of the dangers facing highway workers in Virginia. He said:
“Anybody that has worked construction has had a close call. They have to watch out because they just know that so many people are driving down the road not paying attention. There’s nothing between that vehicle and them, except a vest. If they get hit by a car, they’re going to lose.”
Those dangers were a catalyst for the new Virginia work zone texting and driving law.
Distracted driving is on the mind of Cary and many others with the department.
The executive director of DRIVE SMART Virginia Janet Brooking told a local TV station work zones are “inherently dangerous.”
Why Are Work Zones in Virginia So Dangerous?
Brooking highlighted a host of factors that make work zones hazardous including:
- Large equipment on or near the highway;
- Changes to traffic patterns;
- Uneven pavement;
- Variable speed limits;
- The presence of highway workers.
Brooking alluded to a spike in work zone injuries in Virginia in 2017 when deaths rose by 20 percent and injuries rose by 6 percent.
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles notes there have been 150 distracted driving-related crashes in work zones across the Commonwealth this year. At least two were deadly.
The holidays are hazardous times to be on the road. There is more traffic and often drivers are impatient to get to their destinations. Alcohol is more likely to be consumed over the holidays. Official studies suggest the holidays over the summer are the most dangerous times. Many studies suggest the July 4 holiday is the second most dangerous after the Memorial Day weekend.
Distracted driving has reached epic proportions on the roads of Virginia and elsewhere. Earlier this year, Virginia Deputy Transportation Secretary Quintin Elliott warned taking your eyes off the road to look at your phone or another distraction is just as dangerous as drinking and driving.
Elliot claimed Virginia is in the grips of a distracted driving epidemic. He said the number of deaths caused by distracted driving is almost as high as the number of fatalities linked to drunk drivers.
In 2017, more than 15,000 injuries resulted from over 26,000-plus crashes that involved “self-reported” distracted driving, according to the DMV. Drivers are 23 times more likely to crash if they are texting at the wheel. They are nine times more likely to crash if reaching for an object while driving.
Over holidays like July 4, our personal injury lawyers see an increase in wrecks in tourist hot spots like Virginia Beach. A combination of driving, parties, and drivers texting or checking out Facebook on their smartphones can be devastating. If you were hurt in an accident involving a drunk driver, please call us at (757) 333-3333.