May 30, 2013
Tougher Laws on DWI, Distracted Driving Take Effect July 1
RICHMOND – New laws taking effect July 1, 2013 take a tougher stance on drinking and driving and driving while distracted.
Under current law, a conviction of driving while intoxicated (DWI) is not considered a felony unless it is the third DWI conviction within 10 years. Effective July 1, any DWI conviction will be a felony if a person has a prior conviction of any of the following:
- Involuntary manslaughter alcohol
- Involuntary manslaughter alcohol boating
- DWI maiming
- Boating while intoxicated maiming
- DWI third offense or subsequent
A DWI felony conviction mandates a minimum fine of $1,000 and one year in prison.
Also as of July 1, texting while driving is a primary offense with increased penalties. Texting or reading text messages while driving is illegal for all drivers, no matter their age. Currently, texting while driving is a secondary offense and can only be charged when the offender is stopped for another, separate offense.
A texting while driving conviction will carry a $125 fine for the first offense and $250 for the second or subsequent offenses. The current penalties are $20 for a first offense and $50 for a second or subsequent offense. The new law increases the punishment of any person convicted of reckless driving to include a $250 mandatory fine if the person was texting at the time of a reckless driving offense.
In 2012, more than 20 percent (28,112) of all crashes in Virginia (123,588) were attributed to driver distractions. More than 28,000 crashes resulted in 174 fatalities and 16,709 injuries. Nearly 1,700 crashes involved drivers using cell phone or texting while operating a motor vehicle.
"People are dying and being seriously injured because of drunk and distracted driving. Those offenses put not only the driver and their family in danger, but this risky behavior also jeopardizes everyone else traveling on the roadways," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor's Highway Safety Representative.
Here are some distracted driving facts for 2012 in Virginia:
- Most distracted driving crashes involved drivers 21 to 35 years old
- Most distracted driver crashes occurred at the end of the week on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, between noon and 6 p.m.
- The top three driver distractions last year were, in order:
- drivers not having their eyes on the road
- cell phone use