Virginia legislators have approved a bill that would prohibit texting while driving.
 - Photo via Ron Cogswell/Wikimedia.

Virginia legislators have approved a bill that would prohibit texting while driving.

Photo via Ron Cogswell/Wikimedia.

With the goal of tightening an existing law prohibiting texting while driving, both houses of Virginia's General Assembly recently voted to ban the use of handheld mobile devices while operating a motor vehicle, reports the Washington Post.

If signed into law, the bill would go into effect Jan. 1. Penalties for violators will be $125 for the first offense and $250 for subsequent violations.

The new legislation is designed to crack down on the problem of cellphone manipulation while driving. Though texting behind the wheel is already illegal in Virginia, drivers can legally use GPS, play video games, or toggle through song lists using a cellphone or mobile device.

Experts say that any interaction with a cellphone when operating a vehicle can lead to a deadly collision. Moreover, recent research showed that Virginia drivers continue to interact with their cellphones on a regular basis.

In fact, Virginia drivers were 57% more likely to manipulate a cellphone in 2018 than they were in 2014, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found in comparing two observational surveys it conducted.

The percentage of Virginia drivers observed fiddling with a cellphone while behind the wheel climbed from 2.3% in 2014 to 3.4% in 2018.

If the latest legislation clears final procedural votes, Virginia joins 16 states and the District of Columbia in banning the handheld use of cellphones. Virginia's new law would allow for drivers to look at screens, including GPS, and to handle their phones while stopped at traffic lights, reports the Post.

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