January 29, 2014
Virginia State Police Cite 500-Plus Drivers for Texting While Driving
RICHMOND – 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, 2013, through December 31, 2013, troopers stopped and charged 567 drivers for violating the state’s “texting- while-driving” law.
During the 2013 Virginia General Assembly Session, legislators amended Code of Virginia 46.2-1078.1 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-1078.1) to make it a primary offense. A violation of this section is a traffic infraction punishable, for the first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $250. The law applies to the operator of a passenger vehicle in motion and exempts law-enforcement and other first responders.
Since the law went into effect, Virginia state troopers have been enforcing it just like any other primary offense. The trooper must observe the illegal conduct of the vehicle’s operator, thus providing the trooper with reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on that vehicle. Further investigation determines what, if any, offense(s) the driver will be cited for by the trooper. Troopers have the discretion to warn, summons or arrest a violator.
“Driving distracted puts everybody at risk on a highway,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “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 Code of Virginia 46.2-341.20.5 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-341.20C5). The law prohibits anyone from texting while driving a commercial vehicle or a vehicle used to transport between nine and 15 passengers. The law does permit “texting when necessary to communicate with law enforcement or other emergency services.”
Code of Virginia 46.2-919.1 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-919.1) prohibits the use of any wireless telecommunications devices by persons driving school buses.
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*Virginia Highway Safety Office, Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles