Cellphones while driving (copy)

Virginia lawmakers have passed bills prohibiting motorists from touching cellphones while driving.

If you’re driving in Virginia, you better start learning to keep your hands off the cellphone. In a refreshingly wise move, the Virginia General Assembly passed a bill this week to make that bit of wisdom a state law. We hope the governor—whoever that might be—will sign this commonsense bill as soon as possible.

The new law would make it a violation to drive while holding a cellphone. It would also make it illegal to browse the internet or post to Facebook while zipping along on an interstate highway. (The fact that it’s currently legal for drivers to do so is terrifying.) As Virginia law stands now, a driver can only be pulled over for texting while driving. But police officers say that distinction is hard to enforce and as a result, they rarely ticket anyone for doing it.

If the bill becomes law, as it certainly should, drivers will no longer be able to use their phone’s GPS while driving—but the legislation does allow for use of dashboard touchscreens that connect wirelessly to cellphones, as well as voice-activated and hands-free devices. Other exceptions include using a cellphone for reporting or responding to an emergency. The law also doesn’t apply to CB and amateur radio users.

The bill includes a $125 fine and a traffic violation citation for offenders. Subsequent offenses would cost drivers $250.

Assuming the bill is signed into law, Virginia would become the fifth state where motorists can be fined for simply holding a phone while driving.

Opponents said the bill goes too far and is overly restrictive. But enough is enough. We’ve sat through too many green lights waiting for the distracted drivers in front to look up from their phones.

We’ve heard of too many instances where drivers on cellphones have caused accidents, pile-ups, even fatalities. In 2016, almost a quarter of all fatal crashes involved distracted driving.

We congratulate the legislature on its wisdom and look forward to a similar demonstration from the Executive Mansion.

—Richmond Times-Dispatch

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