Holding a phone while driving in Virginia could soon be illegal

Texting while driving.PNG

Lawmakers in Virginia have passed a bill that would make it illegal to drive with a cell phone in your hand.

The bill passed in both the House and Senate which expands the current law to ban "using a handheld personal communications device while operating a motor vehicle to all uses unless the device is specifically designed to allow hands-free and voice operation and the device is being used in that manner."

Current law only bans texting or writing an email while driving. Police say it's been difficult to enforce this law because officers have to catch the driver sending a text.

"They have to able to observe for a period of time to see what the driver is doing. The driver could be typing in a phone number or answering a phone call," said deputy Darrell Dickenson of the Washington County Sheriff's Office.

The new law would ban holding your phone in your hand while driving. Deputy Dickenson says that would be easier to enforce.

"We'll be able to watch and observe in a safe manner to see if someone has a phone in their hand when we pass them or they pass us," said Dickenson.

Some local Virginians think the law is a good idea.

"Sometimes when I look over while I'm driving I'll see people using their phone. They won't realize they're crossing into my lane," said Virginia resident Jossie Willis.

"I can pull up behind someone and can tell if they're on the phone," said Virginian Bryan Owens. "I'll see them slow down or weave in the lane."

According to the Virginia DMV, in 2018 there were 182 crashes caused by texting while driving. Of those crashes, 83 reported injuries and one was deadly.

"Clearly people shouldn't be dialing and texting, texting is insane," said political analyst Eric Drummond Smith. He says the proposed bill follows a trend of recent laws aimed at reducing distracted driving.

However, Smith says he wonders if not being able to touch your phone is going a step too far.

"Are we getting close to the point where you won't be allowed to legally have any interaction with devises in your vehicle," said Smith.

Some residents think putting the phone down for an entire car ride will be impossible.

"This is a technological world. I think there will still be people who break the law," said Virginia resident Brittnee Stanley.

Drivers who break the new law could be pulled over and given a ticket with a $125 fine for the first offense and a $250 fine on the second.

You would be able to talk on speaker with your phone somewhere else in the vehicle.

The bill also states you can use your phone for GPS and radio, but if you want to change a song or re-route your maps, you'll need to pull over and stop to use your phone.

The governor would have to sign the bill to make it a new law in January 2020.

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