Is that text message worth $250?

Is that text message worth $250?

In July 2009, Virginia joined a burgeoning number of states passing legislation to crack down on distracted driving. In Section 46.2-1078.1, the House and Senate outlined regulations for the use of “handheld personal communications devices” in motor vehicles, most notably prohibiting drivers from reading or sending text messages from their mobile phones.

The law states that it is unlawful for the driver of a moving vehicle to enter text in a handheld device for the purpose of communication, or to read any email, text message, or other information stored within, aside from names, numbers, and caller identification information. Drivers who are “lawfully parked or stopped,” who are using a call phone to report an emergency, or are operating an on-duty emergency vehicle are the only exceptions.

According to the 2009 law, an officer must have cause to stop a driver for another violation in order to issue a citation for texting while driving. But Virginia drivers shouldn’t see this secondary offense clause as a loophole. In areas such as Fairfax County, state and local police have cracked down on distracted drivers using older laws that require drivers to “pay full time and attention” to the road.These laws allow police to stop a driver for texting, eating, applying makeup, or playing DJ as a primary offense. Fines for failure to pay full time and attention can reach up to $250 – quite a jump from $20 for a first offense and $50 for each subsequent citation under the new law.

Virginia is one of 19 states that currently have “texting laws” on the books. 16 of those have been passed in the last two years thanks to an outpouring of results from recent distracted driving studies. Delegates who presented the Virginia bill cited statistics that show distracted driving accounts for approximately 80 percent of traffic accidents in Virginia. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute adds that dialing a phone while driving a car more than doubles the risk of crash. The statistics for trucks or heavy vehicles are even more powerful: the risk of crash is nearly 6 times as high while dialing and more than 23 times as high while texting.

The VT report states that texting “ has the potential to create a true crash epidemic if texting-type tasks continue to grow in popularity and as the generation of frequent text-message senders reach driving age in large numbers.” At Paullin Law Firm we ask that you drive responsibly. Avoid distracted driving, and if you must send a text message, find a safe place to pull over and park.

For more information about Virginia’s texting law or to seek representation, call the experienced attorneys at Paullin Law Firm at 804-464-3765.

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