February 20, 2013
Texting and driving is all around us. It's in commercials, we see it as we drive, and it causes accidents.
Lieutenant Ronnie Roberts, with the Charlottesville Police Department, said, "We want to reduce automobile crashes, reduce the needless injuries, and for certain no tragedies where someone dies on a roadway while using that type of communication device."
Both the Virginia house and senate have passed new legislation to Governor McDonnell that bans texting while driving. Right now, it's a secondary offense with a $25 fine.
Roberts said, "If I pulled up here and they were stopped at a stop light and they were texting, I couldn't do anything."
With McDonnell's signature, texting while driving would become a primary offense and the fines increase dramatically. The first offense would have a fine of $250 and the second offense, $500. Also, the only time you would be able to text on your phone in your car would be if it were an emergency or if you were legally parked or stopped.
John Whitehead, President of The Rutherford Institute, said the law may not be clear cut, "It does encroach on our civil rights in the sense that there's no set behavior in the law that the policeman can pull you over. Like I say, you could be looking down at the floor board if you saw something roll across."
Whitehead also said the law wrongly excludes emergency officials, "Police are completely excluded, law enforcement, correctional officers, anybody connected with the government essentially is exempt from the law. If they're texting while driving it's dangerous too."
But either way, Roberts said the law will make our roads safer, "You have to really be on your p's and q's at all times in an urban environment because you also have bicyclist you are dealing with and pedestrians and if you're talking or utilizing that type of device to text and to things of that sort.. inevitably someone's going to get hurt."
If the legislation is signed by Governor McDonnell, it would be enacted on July 1, 2013.