On February 5, 2019 the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates each passed bills prohibiting motorists from touching their cellphones while driving. The Senate approved the bill SB 1341 on a vote of 34-6, and the House passed HB 1811, 69-27.
Currently, Virginia state law prohibits texting or writing an email while driving—$125 on the first offense and $250 on the second. However, police agencies said it was difficult to enforce. Under the new law, simply holding a phone in your hand while driving would be outlawed. Previously, it was legal for drivers to play “Pokemon Go” or use social media apps such as “Snapchat” while driving, despite the dangers of distracted driving. Read more about that topic here.
With this new law, drivers would still be able to operate their phones if they are lawfully parked or stopped or are reporting an emergency. They would also be allowed to talk on speaker while placing their phones elsewhere in the vehicle.
According to the Virginia DMV, Virginia saw a 10.8 percent increase in traffic fatalities in 2017, and traffic deaths have increased every year since 2013. We hope that these new laws can decrease the number of accidents and injuries.
Although the House and Senate bills are identical, the House must pass the Senate bill, or the Senate must pass the House bill, and then the governor must sign the legislation for it to go into effect. Once the governor signs the bill, it will become law in January 2020.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident due to distracted driving and you have questions as to what laws apply, please give us a call (703-796-9555) or email us at Abrams Landau, Ltd.