Distracted Driving Laws Coming to Virginia July 1, 2013

Ninety percent (90%) of driving is visual and when you are distracted and take your eyes off the road even for a second, you have significantly reduced your ability to drive safely. What won’t wait until you are stopped? Is changing that radio station, putting on makeup, or responding to a text really worth your life or the life of another while on the road?

There are four types of driver distraction:

  •  Visual – looking at something other than the road
  •  Auditory – hearing something not related to driving
  •  Manual – manipulating something other than the wheel
  •  Cognitive – thinking about something other than driving

Most distractions involve more than one of these types, with both a sensory (eyes, ears, or touch) and a mental component. Distraction occurs when a driver voluntarily diverts attention to something not related to driving that uses the driver’s eyes, ears, or hands.

Virginia Law as of July 1, 2013:

  • Ban on all cell phone use (handheld & hands free) for bus drivers (Primary Law)
  • Ban on all cell phone use (handheld & hands free) for novice drivers (Primary Law)
  • Ban on texting/email and reading of same for all drivers.. This is now a primary offense with fines of $125  (first offense) then $250.  http://goo.gl/zmWBf

Virginia politicians (Senate and House of Delegates) have had many bills before them proposing to tighten and/or add various legislation to Virginia’s distracted driving laws.  Having the ban on texting made a primary offense will hopefully aid in the decrease of distracted driving and the accidents that occur.  The Senate and the House have passed the above changes with twice the fines. Governor Bob McDonald proposed the fines be halved (as noted above) and that was accepted by both houses of the General Assembly on April 3. Reminds me of when drunken driving laws were lax until enough deadly crashes occurred.

A case involving a 2011 fatal accident where a texting driver who struck and killed a college student and the subsequent loss of the trial on “reckless driving" highlights the disconnect between the law and reality as to the dangers of distracted drivers.  To read the full story, visit the Washington Post article. A twenty dollar fine for texting while driving hardly seems like justice for the death of another human being.

Distracted driving is a menace on our roads  according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration - NHTSA car accidents resulting from distracted driving killed 5,474 people and injured approximately 448,000 more in 2009. A distracted driver may be more prone to cause a head on or rear end collision, run red lights, disregard posted traffic signs or swerving into other lanes into other traffic or off the road completely. 

Bottom line - pay attention while you are driving.  Whatever you need to do can wait until you are stopped.  Your life and the life of others depend on it.

Kellam T. Parks
Managing Member of Parks Zeigler, PLLC
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