Virginia governor signs bills to address road safety

| 3/28/2007

A couple of bills in Virginia intended to address highway safety concerns have been signed into law by Gov. Tim Kaine. The new rules take effect July 1.

The first bill targets alcohol-related reckless drivers. Sponsored by Delegate Scott Lingamfelter, R-Woodbridge, the bill - HB1708 - would require those who had their driver's licenses suspended for reckless driving because of alcohol-related or drug-related reasons to complete an alcohol safety action program before they could have their licenses reinstated.

The second bill is intended to keep novice drivers from using phones and other devices while behind the wheel.

Sponsored by Sen. Jay O'Brien, R-Clifton, the bill - SB1039 - prohibits drivers under age 18 from using any cell phone, hand-held or "hands free," or other wireless device.

"I believe this is common-sense restriction on those new drivers who may be tempted to pay more attention to phone calls and text messages than the road, endangering themselves and other drivers," Kaine said in a written statement.

Violations of the restriction would be a secondary offense - meaning a person would have to be pulled over for another violation before they could be ticketed for talking on the phone. Emergency calls would be exempted.

Anyone caught in violation would face a traffic infraction. Repeat offenders could lose their driving privileges for six months.

Another bill intended to make the state's roadways safer, however, met its demise. Sponsored by Delegate Melanie Rapp, R-Yorktown, the measure would have reserved the left lane of highways for drivers passing other vehicles. Exceptions would have included exiting to the left and avoiding debris.

The bill - HB1934 - would have required the Virginia State Police to prepare and implement a public awareness campaign to educate the public of the prohibition.

The bill remained in a Senate committee at the deadline to advance to the full chamber, effectively killing it. The House previously approved it by unanimous consent.