Distracted driving can be deadly in Virginia

Texting while driving convictions have increased significantly.

The technology of cellphones is truly a wonder. They have come a long way from the massive brick-sized phones available more than two decades ago. And for those who own smartphones, the fact that they are even called phones is misleading. They really are small computers, capable of providing your weather, your location, suggest a local restaurant (and book a table), allow you to update your Facebook page in real time and stream a movie or television show.

With that incredible appeal, they become literally, hard to put down. Even when driving. After all, they can provide turn-by-turn driving instructions, why would you want to turn them off and place them in your purse or jacket pocket.

All that convenience comes with a cost, however, and sometimes that cost takes the form of an ambulance carrying an injured individual from a motor vehicle crash. In some cases, it was the driver who was texting or distracted by Facebook, Snapchat or some other app and is the only one killed or injured.

Too often, another innocent person suffers grievous and life-long injuries or their family is left behind to pick up the pieces and bring a wrongful death lawsuit as they attempt to recover from their loss.

Texting while driving convictions quadrupled in Virginia

One of the most alluring activities facilitated by these devices is texting. Texting while driving is also one of the most dangerous activities, taking both your eyes and mind off the road and any vehicles or pedestrians along the way.

In 2013, the legislature in Virginia made texting while driving a "primary offense." This means law enforcement can stop a driver observed texting without having to find some other traffic violation, as they did when it was a secondary offense.

Fairfax County led the state in total number of convictions, with 276. The state saw a total of almost 1,700 convictions. The penalty for the offense was also increased, up to $125 for a first offense and $250 thereafter.

Most people underestimate the amount of time devoted to glancing at a text or typing a quick response, but studies have shown that it can be the equivalent of driving with your eyes closed for the distance of football field.

Tragic consequences to distracted driving

An average sized vehicle, travelling at highway speeds provides very little margin of error should you need to quickly slow down, stop or move out of your lane. When a driver is processing the contents of a text, whether reading or sending, it takes seconds for their focus to return to driving.

At that speed, they may cover 300 to 400 feet before they can react to traffic slowing for congestion or a stop sign. Moreover, the car or truck may need another 100 or more feet of stopping distance. The resulting injuries from such crashes are often fatal, and at best, catastrophic.

The punishment for distracted driving may be enhanced in the future, as the legislature in Virginia and across the nation, find that the drivers continue with their fascination with electronic devices and the often-deadly distraction they cause.