Current law in the state of Virginia has texting while driving a secondary offense, texting drivers receiving a relatively small $20 fine. However, legislators in the state are now considering making the habit a more serious infraction.

A study from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has shown texting to be among the most dangerous of tasks someone can do behind the wheel, putting drivers at greater risk for a car accident. For instance, teenage drivers are four times as likely as older drivers to become involved in an auto crash related to texting or even just talking on a cell phone.

In addition, for every six seconds of time spent driving, a motorist that is in the process of sending or receiving a text spends a whopping 4.6 seconds not looking at the road.

The state of Virginia defines distracted driving as anything that removes a motorist’s attention from the road. Texting while driving, of course, falls logically into such a category, but the Virginia General Assembly wants to take a closer look at the trend, partly as the result of a fatal 2011 car crash.

That year, a Herndon family endured the unimaginable when they lost their son to an auto accident. A driver on Va. 7 chose to text while driving, with deadly consequences for another. While that driver was initially charged with reckless driving, a conviction failed to follow due to the state’s stance that reckless driving involved drinking or driving too fast, but not necessarily texting.

The Virginia State Crime Commission is now backing legislation that would make texting behind the wheel a Reckless Driving Offense. If this change takes place, the practice would also become a misdemeanor charge.

Source: The Loudoun Times, “Distracted driving a priority for 2013 Virginia General Assembly.” Gregg MacDonald, Dec. 21, 2012.