In 2019, Virginia counted 120 deaths in 23,246 distracted driving crashes, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Because of this, Virginia will be enforcing HB874/SB160 on Jan. 1, 2021. This hands-free law allows motorists to be fined for holding a cellular phone while driving.
“There is no text message worth reading or sending when injuring or killing someone is the potential cost,” says Martha Meade, AAA Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
Some may remember this law going into effect in July. “This is the six-month period, so some people get used to the idea of enforcement for this,” says AAA spokesperson Morgan Dean. Since July, one ticket has been written, but many warnings have been issued. The six-month approach has been focused on education, rather than enforcement.
Though the law technically went into effect in July, many are not adhering to the new policy. “I think we all have the examples of when we’re on the roads,” Dean said. “We see a car start to weave back and forth, you’re very concerned and when you go to pass that vehicle to make sure everything is okay, what do you see? It is somebody picking that phone up, they’re trying to do something with it, looking back and forth. We do not want to see that on the roadway.”
Stiff penalties will await these offenders. The first-time offenders will receive a $125 fine, and every offense after that will be $250. The Richmond City Council passed their own hands-free law, which went into effect in June.
Advocates for safe driving support this law, but do not consider it a concrete solution. “Hands-free is not risk free,” Dean added. While more than 20% of distracted driving cases deal with phones across the nation, other factors are pulling attention away from drivers. “Anything that diverts attention from driving – eating and drinking, adjusting the navigation, or picking your next podcast, talking to other passengers, or talking or texting on the phone—can result in a fatal injury,” said a AAA news release.
AAA has provided these recommendations for avoiding distractions while driving:
- Prepare for your drive: Set vehicle systems like GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time. And please, finish dressing and personal grooming before you get on the road.
- Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated: The consequences of alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving could be the same: Put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving. Stow your smartphone away, turn it to airplane mode, or activate call/text blocking features.
- Stay focused: Do not let anything divert your attention. Be sure to actively scan the road, use your mirrors, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. If you have passengers, enlist their help as a “designated texter.” Ask them to answer your calls, respond to texts and program the navigation.
If you or a loved one have been injured due to the negligence of a distracted driver, experience matters. Call the attorneys at Allen and Allen today, at 866-865-1206.