By Sam Isaacs
Capital News Service
RICHMOND – Legislation cracking down on texting while driving is only Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature away from become law after passing the Senate on Tuesday.
House Bill 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge, would change texting while driving from a secondary offense to a primary offense. (Currently, you can be charged with texting while driving only if you have been stopped for some other violation.)
Here is how the Senate voted Tuesday on HB 1907 (“Handheld personal communications devices; primary offense for texting while driving, mandatory fine”).
floor: 02/19/13 Senate: Passed Senate (28-Y 12-N)
YEAS – Alexander, Barker, Blevins, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Hanger, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, McWaters, Miller, Newman, Norment, Northam, Puckett, Puller, Saslaw, Stosch, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins – 28.
NAYS – Black, Carrico, Garrett, Martin, McDougle, Obenshain, Petersen, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stuart – 12.
Moreover, the bill, which passed the Senate on a 28-12 vote, would drastically increase the fines for texting while driving. The penalty would jump from $20 to $250 for a first offense and $50 to $500 for repeat violations.
Six other bills were incorporated into Anderson’s. HB 1907 includes proposals by Delegate Ben Cline, R-Amherst, and Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax, to make texting while driving punishable as reckless driving.
Anderson said a hometown tragedy prompted him to introduce the bill.
“I’m so glad that it passed. It was my signature piece of legislature this session,” he said.
“I found out while having coffee with a neighbor last spring that they had lost their brother to a texting driver, so I decided something had to be done.”
Anderson said he has received hundreds of emails this session in favor of the bill, and only one that opposed it.
The House of Delegates had approved HB 1907 by a vote of 92-4 on Feb. 5.
The bill does not prevent drivers from making cellphone calls or using GPS systems. It applies only when a motorist is using a “handheld personal communications device” to “manually enter multiple letters or text” or “read any email or text message.”
If McDonnell signs HB 1907, it would take effect July 1.
Sen. Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg, is sponsoring companion legislation to Anderson’s – Senate Bill 1222. The bill is awaiting final approval by the House.
Capital News Service is a student news-gathering program sponsored by the School of Mass Communications at Virginia Commonwealth University.