In April, the Virginia General Assembly overwhelmingly passed HB 1907, which, as of July 1, 2013 made texting and emailing while driving a primary offense. The new statute permits law enforcement officers to pull over and cite drivers for texting while driving without first observing them violating some other traffic law. Secondary laws, on the other hand, only allow law enforcement officers to issue a ticket for texting while driving if the motorist has been pulled over for another traffic offense, such as speeding.
If a driver enters multiple letters of text for purposes of communication, or if a driver reads incoming text messages or e-mails, he or she is committing a violation of the new statute. Officers must observe drivers in the act of texting or reading text. With one or two exceptions, fines for a first offense are $125 and fines for every subsequent offense will amount to $250. It is important to note that if a driver has pulled over to the side of the road or is legally stopped at a red light or other traffic stop, that driver may then legally send or read text messages or e-mails. However, once the driver and the automobile are back in motion, these activities are prohibited as primary offenses. The safest practice is to avoid texting while behind the wheel entirely and to use a “hands free” device if one plans to talk on the phone while driving.
Virginia’s new ban on texting behind the wheel comes long after many states throughout the nation have already cracked down on distracted driving. Currently, more than 40 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. Twelve of these texting bans were enacted in 2010 alone. As data reveals the overwhelming dangers created by text messaging on the road, many believe that texting while driving laws will be the norm in the future.
Although every form of distracted driving is inherently unsafe, texting while driving has been considered the most alarming. This is because text messaging – or e-mailing on a smartphone – commands a driver’s manual, cognitive, and visual attention, all of which are vital to safe driving. Drivers who make the careless, negligent, and now illegal decision to text behind the wheel place others on public roads and highways in serious danger.
When accidents and injuries do occur as the result of texting while driving, victims have every right to hold these negligent drivers liable for the harm and damages they cause. If you would like more information about filing a personal injury claim involving a driver who was texting at the time of an accident, please do not hesitate to contact a Northern Virginia personal injury attorney from Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. today.