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Driving in Virginia? Please get off your cellphone.

A new law went into effect in Virginia on Monday that will make it easier for police to enforce existing laws and apprehend distracted drivers. There has been quite a bit of misinformation out there about exactly what these changes are, and our own Del. Scott Surovell, a champion of distracted driving legislation, has detailed the implications of the new legislation here.

In summary, beginning this week drivers in Virginia can face a reckless-driving charge if driving dangerously while using a cellphone--whether they are texting, typing an email, reading messages or playing a game.

As of Monday, using a cellphone in any capacity while driving can warrant a reckless-driving charge in Virginia if the driver's use of the phone caused them to endanger any person or property.

Reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor that can result in a driver's license suspension, fines and even jail time.

In addition to this update to our state's laws, the following changes also went into effect Monday:

  1. You can now be pulled over for texting or emailing while driving. Previously, these were secondary offenses, so you could not actually be stopped by police for them. These are now primary offenses.
  2. Those convicted of both reckless driving and texting or emailing while driving will face a mandatory $250 fine.
  3. Fines for only texting or emailing while driving have also went up. A first-time offense is $125 and a second offense is $250.

While these laws may be a bit confusing, drivers can prevent much of this trouble--as well as car accidents--by simply staying off of their phones, and avoiding other distractions, too. Distracted driving causes thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries in the U.S. every year. It is important that drivers here in Virginia keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes, ears, and minds on the roads. Doing otherwise is not only irresponsible, but it may be illegal as well.

Source: Virginia Pilot, "Using cellphones behind wheel may be reckless driving," Julian Walker, June 28, 2013

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