June 26, 2014
It has been nearly a year since Virginia's texting-while-driving ban went into effect.
Before the law passed a driver could not be given a ticket simply for texting and would have to be stopped for another reason.
Now, it is a primary offense meaning police can pull you over if they see you texting or responding to emails and you'll get hit with a $125 fine for a first offense.
Exactly 12 months after the law was enacted Charlottesville Police Department has issued 17 texting-while-driving tickets, Albemarle County Police Department also 17 tickets.
Those figures may not seem like a lot, but police say they are right on target.
"Probably an average number for a community this size. I'm sure there's more out there, but you have to remember we don't have as many policemen as there are drivers on our community roads," says Lt. Ronnie Roberts with the Charlottesville Police Department.
The law states it is illegal to drive while "manually entering multiple letters or text in a device" or reading any email or text message.
Legal analyst Scott Goodman says when it comes to confirming whether or not a driver was texting, the evidence is not in the phone.
"The officers do not need proof on the phone itself. If someone's texting-while-driving the most common way that people get caught or convicted of the charge is because they admit it. The officer pulls them over, they see their head down using their fingers to mechanically operate the device, so they'll ask the person most people if they are and they'll say yes," says Goodman.
It could be said that getting out of a texting ticket is easy.
Legally you do not have to hand over your phone to a police officer without a search warrant and there's no real way to prove you were not just pressing a button on your phone.
In the end, police say the texting-while-driving ban is meant to save lives.
"Schools are out. Children are playing and to be texting in an urban environment here or on any road you increase that probability of being involved in an accident and the other side of it is the death of somebody," says Roberts.
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