Some experts believe that distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving, and cell phones are one of the main sources of distraction behind the wheel. Teens and adults alike will easily agree that texting while driving is dangerous, but the majority of us admit to having done it on occasion. That’s why many states—including Virginia—have passed laws to limit or prohibit the use of cell phones while driving. In this post we’ll look at Virginia cell phone laws intended to increase highway safety for all drivers.
Drivers Under 18
It is illegal for drivers under the age of 18 to use cell phones while driving for any reason. A new law that went into effect in July of 2016 clarified that this prohibition includes hands-free devices such as Bluetooth.
Minors using cell phones while driving is considered a secondary offense. This means that a police officer cannot pull a driver over for this reason. However, they can cite a driver under 18 for cell phone use if they pull the driver over for another violation such as speeding or running a red light.
Teens can use a cell phone to report an emergency behind the wheel, but the vehicle must be parked or stopped.
Texting while driving is illegal for drivers of all ages. Unlike the teen cell phone prohibition, texting is considered a primary offense. This means an officer can pull you over if they have reason to believe your are texting, even if you haven’t violated any other traffic laws.
The fine for texting while driving is $125 for the first offense and $250 for the second and any subsequent offenses.
While texting is forbidden, there are some exceptions to the law.
- Emergency services personnel can use their phones and text in the course of their official duty.
- You can text and use your phone while stopped or parked.
- You can use your phone to report and emergency.
- You can use your phone to access GPC as part of a digital dispatch system.
School Bus Drivers
School bus drivers are not allowed to use cell phones—either handheld or hands free—while driving a school bus, except in case of an emergency or when the bus is stopped.
Drivers of commercial vehicles have different restrictions than other drivers. Commercial drivers are not allowed to text or use a handheld device to make calls. They can, however, use hands free devices for calls.
As with other drivers, there is an exception for contacting emergency services or communicating with law enforcement.
Penalties for commercial drivers are much more severe, with a maximum fine of $2,750.
While Virginia cell phone laws do allow for some types of phone use when driving, it’s important to remember that any distraction from the road can be dangerous to yourself and others. Use caution, and only use your phone when absolutely necessary. Any call or text message can wait until you reach your destination or are safely stopped.
Many cars now come equipped with hands free phone capabilities, and aftermarket models are available for older vehicles. Consider using this technology if you don’t already.