Since the Virginia General Assembly opened its new session
earlier this month, several bills have been introduced that are intended to
address highway safety concerns.
Delegate Melanie Rapp, R-Yorktown, has introduced a bill
that would prohibit all drivers from lingering in the passing lane on the
state's roadways. The measure - HB1934 - would reserve the left lane for
drivers passing other vehicles. Exceptions would include exiting to the left
and avoiding persons or debris.
The Virginia State Police would be required to prepare and
implement a public awareness campaign to educate the public of the prohibition.
Rapp offered a related bill that is intended to reduce the
likelihood of road rage. That bill - HB1933 - would allow law enforcement to
ticket motorists for blocking traffic in the left lane. Failure to give way to
an overtaking vehicle would result in at least a $250 fine.
Novice drivers chatting on the phone or with other devices
while behind the wheel are the subject of another bill.
Sen. Jay O'Brien, R-Clifton, has offered a bill - SB1039 -
that would prohibit drivers under age 19 from using any cell phone, hand-held
or "hands free," or other wireless device. Violators could be pulled over
solely for using the devices. Emergency calls would be exempted.
A separate bill - SB1040 - offered by O'Brien - would make the
violation of various restrictions for drivers under age 19, such as passenger
and curfew limitations, primary offenses. Existing law requires that offenders
be pulled over for another offense before being ticketed for an age
Another bill affecting novice drivers would require teens
with learner's permits to spend more time practicing. Sponsored by Delegate
Matthew Lohr, R-Broadway, the bill - HB1655 - would increase the minimum
practice time from 40 to 50 hours. At least 15 of those hours must be spent
driving after sunset - up from the current 10 hours.
Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, has introduced a
measure that targets alcohol-related reckless drivers.
The bill - HB1708 - would require those who had their
driver's license suspended for reckless driving that was alcohol-related or
drug-related to complete an alcohol safety action program before they could
have their driver's license reinstated.
One other bill - HB1772 - would give law enforcement
officers more power to arrest people caught speeding.
Sponsored by Delegate John Cosgrove, R-Chesapeake, the
effort would allow officers to arrest people for speeding even if they are out
of uniform. The only requirement would be that they display a badge.
The bills are in their respective transportation committees.
- By Keith Goble,
state legislative editor