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Don't text and drive starting July 1 in Virginia; Statewide ban goes into effect on Wednesday
A call to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles for clarification was referred to Virginia State Police. Geller said state police does not interpret law and can only enforce it.
A driver should not be parked in a travel lane, Geller said. Also, drivers should not text in stop-and-go traffic because that is where most fender-benders occur from driver inattention, she said.
If you are operating a moving vehicle, you should not be sending or reading texts, Geller said.
"You're not paying attention to what's going on," Geller said. "Your concentration is on a little screen in front of you."
The fine for a first violation is $20, and $50 for a second violation. Driving while texting will be considered a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement officers must have another reason to stop or arrest a driver beyond texting.
Sen. Ryan McDougle, R-Mechanicsville, was the only Fredericksburg-area state legislator to vote against the ban. McDougle represents parts of Caroline and Spotsylvania counties.
McDougle, an attorney, said he believes drivers should not be texting. But he was concerned that drivers who text and subsequently cause a crash may now be charged with a less severe offense than reckless driving, which includes all manner of distracted driving behaviors.
"Reckless driving is anything which causes you to not pay attention--adjusting the radio, putting on makeup, eating a Big Mac, texting. So texting is already included under reckless driving because it is a distraction to the driver," McDougle said.
Driver distraction is increasingly viewed as a public health problem. Last year, Virginia's DMV recorded 28,395 crashes on state roads that involved driver distraction. DMV does not know how many of those crashes involved text messaging or cell phones. But 114 people died as a result of those crashes, and another 14,480 people were injured.
When Virginia wanted to reduce highway crashes after a record-breaking number of fatalities in 2007, it asked drivers to limit distractions along with the other pillars of safety: reducing speed, wearing a seatbelt, and driving free from the effects of drugs and alcohol.
Driving "is taxing enough," Geller said. "Why try to complicate it even more while trying to drive and text?"
Kelly Hannon: 540/374-5436