In April, the Virginia General Assembly approved a bill that toughens the penalty for texting while driving. As part of a nationwide push, Virginia lawmakers increased the fine for texting while driving: A first offense now results in a $125 ticket, and subsequent offenses cost texting drivers $250 each.
The new law comes in response to thousands of traffic accidents involving distracted drivers.
According to a Virginia Department of Health study, distracted driving caused 77,617 injuries and 608 deaths between 2005-2009. At least 6% of these auto accidents involved a driver using a cell phone.
Under Virginia law, texting while driving is now a primary offense, meaning that police can stop a driver just for texting while driving. According to a Washington Post article, however, the new anti-texting law will not prevent drivers from texting on Virginia roadways.
Drivers will still be allowed to use GPS and make phone calls while driving. As a result, drivers who are stopped for texting while driving can claim that they were using their phone for an authorized activity, such as looking up directions.
“Virginia is a tough state [in which] to enact highway safety laws, so this new action is an important step,” Joshua Adkins of the Governors Highway Safety Association told the Post. “To be most effective, a hand-held ban is necessary. But this sends a message that texting and driving is dangerous. That’s critical.”
Research from Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute underscores the message that texting and driving causes distracted driving and car accidents.
Virginia Tech’s 2009 distracted driving study found that texting while driving is the worst type of cellphone-related distraction and takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds.
Richmond drivers and pedestrians who are injured by distracted drivers may be entitled to compensation for their injuries and suffering. Geoff McDonald and Associates PC is a personal injury law firm in Richmond, VA, that represents people injured in automotive injury cases.