Did you know that Virginia remains the only state in the region not to have a hands-free driving law? Sixteen states, including Maryland and D.C., banned handheld cellphone use while driving. The past few months have been a rollercoaster ride within Congress to attempt to make changes to this law.
On February 5, 2019, the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates each passed bills prohibiting motorists from touching their cellphones while driving. 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 as it does not cover a multitude of other potential smartphone uses such as social media or video streaming. Under the new law, simply holding a phone in your hand while driving would be outlawed.
Unfortunately, the bill died in the General Assembly session’s final hours, making this the second year in a row that distracted driving legislation died in the closing days of session. Some delegates were concerned that police could abuse the new law by engaging in racial profiling, while others were concerned that the rewritten legislation did not go far enough in reducing distracted driving.
Despite Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s attempts to revive the proposal, the bill was killed again in the House of Delegates. Northam was at least able to sign a bill in April 2019, adding more restrictions to the current ban on texting while driving. Now, it is illegal to hold a cellphone while driving in a Virginia road work zone. Violators will face a $250 fine.
We here at Abrams Landau, Ltd. hope that the hands-free driving bill will finally become law next year. As a personal injury law firm, we have come across far too many people who were severely injured from unnecessary car accidents. Distracted driving kills an average of nine people in the U.S. every day and more than 1,000 people are injured daily in these crashes. According to the Virginia DMV, people who text and drive are 23 times more likely to get into an accident.
We strive to help our clients receive the full help they deserve after catastrophic motor vehicle accidents, but we would much rather prefer if they weren’t injured in the first place. So, please, put the phone down and keep your eyes on the road for your sake and others.
If you or someone you know has been severely injured in a car accident, and you have questions as to what laws apply, please give us a call (703-796-9555) or email us at Abrams Landau, Ltd.