Distracted driving is a major problem on the roads, and it’s gotten worse ever since smartphones became commonplace. To combat the problem, Virginia now officially forbids the use of handheld devices while drivers are behind the wheel.
Read on to learn how recent changes in the laws might affect you.
The evolution of an effort to get distracted driving under control
Texting while driving has been illegal in Virginia since 2013 — but it was never a primary offense and always virtually impossible to enforce. Officers couldn’t stop someone solely for having their phone in their hand, and there was really no way for anyone to tell if a driver was texting just by looking at them.
As of Jan. 1, however, drivers with phones in their hands can be pulled over and ticketed — whether they were texting, talking, looking at directions, scrolling through social media or just holding the device. First-time offenders get a $125 fine, while repeat offenders will be fined $250.
What’s the reason for the increased restrictions? It has a lot to do with the 400,000 or so injuries seen every year from this kind of driving behavior. In Virginia, distracted driving causes about 1,500 crashes every year and at least seven to 10 deaths. But the true toll in terms of injury victims, shattered lives, disrupted careers and property damage is much higher.
Expect some drivers to still take chances and cause accidents
Will this law actually cut down on the number of distracted driving accidents? Probably. Just like stiffer penalties for drunk driving, the potential fines will be enough to make most drivers behave more carefully.
However, just like drunk driving laws, there will always be people who flout the rules. If you end up injured in a wreck with a distracted driver, take swift action to protect your interests and assert your right to fair compensation for your losses.