Virginia Regulation banning cellphone use while driving in effect January 1

The state of Virginia will penalize drivers for using cell phones while driving from January 1. The regulations were first announced in July but will go into effect from the start of the new year. 

Lisa Herndon, public information officer for Herndon Police Department announced the decision. The move is a part of the administration’s efforts to counter distracted driving related incidents.

Using cell phones while driving was formerly a secondary offence in the Old Dominion. Starting January, using a cell phone while at the wheel will be a primary offence. In essence, unlike before, police will be authorised to pull over a driver found to be using a cell phone while driving. 

As per the details given by the police department, the penalties will be starting at $125. Lis Herndon termed the penalties “kind of steep”.

“It’s a $125 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second offense, or $250 if you’re caught in a construction zone,” she said.

This water shed moment is expected to restore driver safety in Virginia Beach, Alexandria, McLean, Ashburn, Reston and every other city in Virginia. Experts are expecting a flood of responses as a result. The belief is this will restore past damage done to the perception of safety.

It is important to note here that the new regulations apply to non hands-free devices only. Using a hands-free device while driving will continue to be legal in the state of Virginia even after the new law comes into effect.

Previous Virginia laws only prohibit reading or sending messages while driving and using cell phones while driving in a work zone. The new law will outright ban drivers from holding a “handheld personal communications device” while driving. 

Virginia joined the rest of the Washington region in banning handheld cell phones after Governor Ralph Northam signed the said Bill in July 2020. 

Sen. Scott Surovell of Fairfax who sponsored the Bill, called the problem an epidemic.

“This bill will save lives,”  said Delegate Jeff Bourne of Richmond. 

The bill has technically been in effect since mid 2020, but the police didn’t enforce it for 6 months to allow time to raise awareness about it among the public. 

The fresh penalties mean the drivers in Virginia will have to be more cautious from now on. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says 4 in every 5 crashes in Virginia occur due to  drivers who are distracted i.e talking, texting, reading or reaching for something. 

Out of the 8.5 million inhabitants of Virginia, more than 5 million are registered drivers. With so many vehicles on the road, the accident numbers are bound to be on the high side. Traffic related fatalities have long been a cause of concern for the authorities in Virginia. 

The numbers from the previous two years – 2018 and 2019 paint a bleak picture. According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, more than 400000 people were injured in crashes due to distracted driving in the year 2018 alone. Similarly, distracted driving also accounts for approximately 10 deaths a year. 

Data from the Virginia Department of Motor shows that 827 deaths occurred on Virginia’s roadways in 2019, most of which were caused by distractions. The fresh series of measures is aimed at bringing these numbers down. 

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