Virginia has recently implemented extensive changes to laws concerning driving behavior and issues related to licensing. Among those changes are alterations to legislation on the distracted driving habit of texting while behind the wheel. Most people brush off warnings of danger when the dangers of texting and driving are brought to their attention. They are, willfully or not, unaware of the types of risks the habit imposes on themselves and other drivers on the road. Virginia is combatting this negligence even more now by implementing new and stricter distracted driving laws that will come into effect starting January 1, 2021.
Virginia Imposing Further Restrictions on the Use of Mobile Devices Behind the Wheel
The new piece of legislation for 2021 will restrict all Virginian drivers of the ability to talk and text on their handheld mobile devices while operating a vehicle. The new law, House Bill 874, holds that those who are observed to be holding a cell phone or other mobile communication devices when behind the wheel are subject to fines on the following scale:
- First Offense: $125
- Second Offense: $250
- Construction and Other Work Zones*: $250, no matter if it is the first or second offense.
*Work zones are recognized as any construction or maintenance area located nearby or on a highway. These areas are marked by warning signs to alert drivers that they are entering the zone. Warning signs may include flashing lights, signs, or other clear indications that a construction or maintenance crew is working in the area.
Virginia has passed laws in the past that addressed the use of mobile devices while behind the wheel but not to this extent. For example, the Virginia General Assembly determined that texting and emailing while driving would be legally recognized as a traffic infraction. Unfortunately, this legislation did very little to curb the rate of distracted driving, specifically for those who engaged in texting while behind the wheel.
Now, Virginia joins the 17 other states in the U.S. that have imposed full bans on the use of handheld devices while operating a vehicle. When researchers looked to one state, in particular, Georgia, as a case study, it was found that the passing of such statutes reduced the frequency of distracted driving by 20%. This law, though many may be unhappy with it to start, will inevitably save lives and money for the citizens and state of Virginia.
Keeping Current Laws in Mind with Upcoming Changes
Presently, the state of Virginia has the following laws in place, which House Bill 874 will either support or overrule:
- Drivers younger than 18 years old are disallowed from cell phone use while driving, especially text messaging.
- Handheld cell phones and other mobile devices cannot be used whatsoever in work zones.
- Commercial drivers and school bus drivers cannot use cell phones or text when operating their vehicles.
- All drivers are disallowed from emailing and texting when driving.
To ensure you are behaving responsibly at all times when operating a vehicle, remember these laws and put away your cell phone and other devices when you are ready to drive.