Unfortunately, it is common on Virginia roads to see people holding a cell phone and driving a vehicle. As of January 1, 2021, it will be illegal to do that. The law was passed on July 1, 2020 but was not enforceable until January 1, 2021.
- The operator of any emergency vehicle while they are engaged in the performance of their official duties;
- An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped;
- Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency;
- The use of an amateur or a citizens band radio; or
- The operator of any Department of Transportation vehicle or vehicle operated pursuant to the Department of Transportation safety service patrol program or pursuant to a contract with the Department of Transportation for, or that includes, traffic incident management services as defined in subsection B of § 46.2-920.1 during the performance of traffic incident management services.
Virginians can still talk on their phones while driving, as long as they are not holding the phone. Thus, hands-free devices such as Bluetooth are legal. The reason for this law is simply to make the roads safer for everyone. Distracted drivers are a serious problem. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles 2019 crash statistics, distracted driving caused 23,246 crashes and 120 fatal crashes. Those figures represent 18.1% of all crashes and 14.5% of all fatalities on Virginia roadways. Texting (in essence manipulating a phone) while driving increases your crash risk by 2300%, because it involves all three kinds of distraction – manual, visual and cognitive.
Violating the law is punishable for a first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $250. Breaking the law in a highway work zone is punishable by a mandatory $250 fine. Hopefully this new law will assist in there being fewer distracted drivers on the road, and therefore less crashes.
If you or anyone you know has been injured as the result of distracted driving or by the carelessness of another, the attorneys at Allen & Allen are here to help.