October 22, 2013
Virginia State Police have released numbers of people cited for texting and driving since it became a primary offense in July, but the numbers are relatively low.
Local police say one reason for low numbers is because the law is restrictive.
The law became a primary offense in July, meaning police don't need any other reason to pull a driver over.
"Now that the law's changed, it's not just a matter of viewing the phone," said officer Bob McCormick with Albemarle County Police. "We have to determine that you were texting."
Virginia State Police have issued 328 tickets specifically for texting and driving. In the Appomattox Division, which covers much of Central Virginia, there have been just 16.
In Albemarle County, police have issued six tickets, while Charlottesville Police have written four.
"If they just left wording the same as when it was a secondary offense, it would've been a lot easier for law enforcement to enforce the law," McCormick said. "Now they've basically handcuffed us."
Police say before July 1, when texting and driving was a secondary offense, the law was written that just viewing a phone was against the law. Now, it's not as easy since police must prove drivers specifically were texting.
"We're not going to take the phone out of your hand," McCormick said. "You're basically going to have to admit to us that you were texting in order to get a summons."
A first offense for texting and driving carries a $125 fine, and a second offense is $250. If police can't prove a driver was texting, they can cite the driver for reckless driving. That's a more serious offense and carries a heftier fine and potential jail time.
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