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No more texting while driving
Don't text and drive starting July 1 in Virginia; Statewide ban goes into effect on Wednesday

Date published: 6/25/2009


Beginning Wednesday, drivers will have one less distraction.

Virginia has banned text messaging while operating a motor vehicle. The ban starts July 1, the day most new state laws go into effect.

Virginia is one of 14 states to ban text messaging while driving, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. A handful of other states have banned text messaging for drivers under 18 and school bus drivers.

Using a hand-held cell phone to make calls while driving is still allowed for drivers over age 18, but typing text or reading text messages or e-mails will be forbidden while operating a moving vehicle.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller acknowledged it is hard to resist the pull of a newly received e-mail on a mobile device.

"They call it 'crackberries' for a reason," Geller said, using the nickname for Blackberries, phones that also deliver e-mail.

For many owners, such phones are addictive forms of technology that allow them to constantly be in touch with family, friends and co-workers--even when they should be paying attention to traffic.

Geller said the ban will raise awareness that glancing away from the road to stare at a miniscule screen--even for a second or two--is a dangerous gamble.

"You'll just have to resist the urge when you hear your Blackberry rattle across the seat next to you," she said.

Del. John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, sponsored the bill in the Virginia General Assembly that led to the texting ban, which was passed overwhelmingly in the House of Delegates and the Senate, and signed by Gov. Tim Kaine.

With any law, there are exceptions.

Drivers may send a text message to report an emergency. Drivers operating emergency vehicles are exempt from the ban. Global Positioning Systems are not considered wireless devices under the ban, so drivers can still keep a hand on the wheel and punch in an address.

Also, drivers are allowed to send or read a text message when legally parked or stopped.

In the Fredericksburg area, drivers might consider themselves "stopped" or "parked" in gridlock on the Falmouth Bridge or Interstate 95--but it still may not be permissible to send or read texts then.

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Starting July 1, it will be illegal in Virginia to operate a moving motor vehicle while you send text messages from a wireless device or read text messages and e-mails on a wireless device.

Drivers can only send or read text messages on a wireless device when the vehicle is parked or stopped, or when they are texting to report an emergency.

The fine for a first violation is $20, and $50 for a second violation. Driving and texting will be considered a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement officers must have another reason to stop or arrest a driver.

Driving and text messaging is banned on the East Coast in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland and New Jersey. It is a primary offense in all of these places, meaning you can be stopped solely for texting. North Carolina bans texting while driving starting Dec. 1.