Virginia bill would add texting to reckless driving acts

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 12/10/2012

If a Virginia state lawmaker gets his way, a new rule could soon be in place to boost the deterrent for drivers to text message while behind the wheel.

Delegate Ben Cline, R-Rockbridge, has prefiled a bill for consideration during the upcoming regular session that would classify driving while texting on a cellphone a reckless driving offense.

Virginia law already makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers could only be cited if they were pulled over for another reason, such as speeding. Offenders face $20 fines. Subsequent violations carry a $50 fine.

Cline’s bill – HB1360 – would boost the punishment for using a handheld phone “for something other than verbal communication” to as much as one year in jail and/or fines up to $2,500. Violations would also be a primary offense.

In addition to texting while behind the wheel, other activities covered in the bill include playing games and reading emails.

“This bill will strengthen the law on texting while driving and send the message that this is not safe or tolerable driving behavior,” Cline said in a press release.

The National Safety Council has reported that driver distractions, as well as alcohol and speeding, are leading factors in serious injury crashes. The council estimates that 28 percent of all traffic crashes – or at least 1.6 million crashes – each year are caused by drivers using cellphones. An additional 200,000 crashes annually involve drivers who are texting.

The bill can be considered during the session that begins Jan. 9.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Virginia, click here.

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