In the first six months since Virginia’s texting-while-driving ban became a primary offense, Virginia State Police troopers have issued hundreds of citations for the violation. From July 1 through December 31, troopers stopped and charged 567 drivers.
During last year’s General Assembly session, legislators voted to make texting while driving a primary offense: First time violations are punishable by a $125 fine and $250 for subsequent infractions. The law applies to the operator of a passenger vehicle in motion and exempts law-enforcement and other first responders.
“Driving distracted puts everybody at risk on a highway,” said VSP superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty. “According to preliminary data, driver distraction accounted for 20 percent of all fatal traffic crashes on Virginia’s roads in 2013. That accounts for 131 lives lost last year because of a driver failing to pay attention while behind the wheel of a vehicle.”
In addition, state legislators this past session also established a law prohibiting anyone from texting while driving a commercial vehicle or one used to transport between nine and 15 passengers. The law does permit “texting when necessary to communicate with law enforcement or other emergency services.” A separate law also prohibits the use of any wireless telecommunications devices by persons driving school buses.