New cellphone ban inching closer to law in Virginia – what will it mean for you?
Get ready, Virginia drivers! A new driving law may hit the roads in 2021, according to the Washington Post. Previous Virginia laws only prohibit reading or sending messages while driving and using cell phones while driving in a work zone. But this new law, known as House Bill 874, will outright ban drivers from holding a “handheld personal communications device” while driving.
The new law, which has passed both Virginia’s Senate and House of Representatives, is expected to be signed by Gov. Ralph Northam and to go into effect on January 1, 2021. Besides adding new restrictions to Virginia driving laws, the new law will consolidate older laws and create additional exceptions.
Distracted driving in Virginia
Sadly, the Commonwealth of Virginia is no stranger to distracted driving accidents. In a recent year, distracted driving-related accidents decreased by 2.5 percent compared with previous years, but increased by 18.2 percent in related deaths, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This same report showed that distracted driving makes up 20.5 percent of all accidents in Virginia.
Although cell phone use is only one part of distracted driving, if Virginia drivers obey the new law and effectively give up using cell phones while driving, we will see a significant drop in car accidents, as well as distraction-related fatalities.
Penalties for using a cell phone while driving
Virginia traffic penalties will not change with House Bill 874. Instead, drivers will still be subject to the same penalties outlined in previous legislation, which include:
- $125 for the first offense
- $250 for the second offense
- $250 for violations in a work zone, regardless if it’s the driver’s first offense
Currently, the Virginia DMV treats texting while driving as a 3-point offense for non-commercial vehicles, but it has yet to be determined if the point system will change with the new law.
Will there be exceptions?
The new law would not only add new restrictions, but also specific exceptions. Though the specific language may change by the time the law is put into effect, the key exceptions proposed include:
- Operators of emergency vehicles, including law enforcement, first responders, firefighters, paramedics, forest wardens, and correctional facility officers, but only when they are in the middle of an emergency.
- Any driver who is lawfully parked and stopped
- Drivers contacting emergency services
- Ham or CB radios, which will be excluded from the definition of “handheld personal communications devices”
- Any vehicle that utilizes red or red and white flashing lights, based on the rules of 46.2-1029.2
How will the new law keep me and others safe?
Recent years and reports have shown that distracted driving is a big risk for today’s drivers and everyone on the road, and our General Assembly hopes to change that. The new bill will continue to require the Virginia driving exam to include questions about distracted driving to ensure that every driver is fully educated about the risks.
In addition, DRIVE SMART Virginia, a state safety campaign, will produce material to help educate the public. How effective the bill will be remains to be seen, but at least for now, Virginia drivers should always be aware of how their actions affect other drivers and pedestrians.
We want to help everyone be safer on the roads
We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys believe that any effort to reduce car accidents should be applauded, particularly when it is paired with proper education. That’s why we do our “Texts=Wrecks” campaign each year and take other steps to help educate our community to prevent wrecks. After all, every time we get on the road, we take our lives and the lives of our neighbors in our hands. Putting safe driving practices and traffic laws ahead of a text message or a phone call is an important way to keep each other safe.
However, if you do have the misfortune of being in an accident with a distracted driver, do not hesitate to call us at (804) 413-6777, or toll-free at (855) 781-6777. We will work hard for you to ensure that the other driver is held financially responsible for any harm to you and your loved ones.
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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.
- Safety Education
GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
- Annual Coat Drive
During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
- Hands-on Service
John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
- Supporting Local Schools
The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.