Virginia State Police have a message for all drivers: no cell phones in the hand while behind the wheel. After getting passed in the General Assembly, a new state law went into effect on January 1 making it illegal to have a cell phone in hand while driving.
While talking is allowed, texting, fiddling with social media or anything else that puts the phone in one’s hand while behind the wheel is prohibited. There are some exceptions to the rule: drivers can hold devices while parked or stopped, drivers can hold devices when reporting emergencies, drivers of emergency vehicles can use handheld devices and VDOT vehicle drivers can use handheld devices while performing traffic incident management services.
For first ticket offenders, there will be a $125 fine. Subsequent violations will be a $250 fine.
Roanoke County Sgt. Spencer Hoopes, like many others, thinks this law will be a welcomed change. “I have three teenage children, and they all have their driver’s license. When I am with them, they are always on their best behavior. The same can’t be said I’m not. This law will put at ease a lot of parents,” Salem native Amy Walker said.
The hands-free law is an effort to stop distracted driving in the Commonwealth, said Governor Ralph Northam who added, distracted driving is a serious problem, and we need everyone to work together.
He continued, “Last year, believe it or not, there were more than 23,000, I repeat that, 23,000 crashes in Virginia that were caused by distracted driving. And 120 of those individuals, unfortunately, lost their lives.”
Over nine deaths and approximately 1,100 injuries are reported every day due to distracted drivers, according to the Centers for Disease and Control. Data also shows that nearly six million distracted drivers hit the roads in the United States daily.
Said Virginia State Police Sgt. Dylan Davenport, “You cannot have a phone in your hand so get those things set up before you hit the road. Set up your playlist before you hit the road. Get your GPS and your mapping set up before you start driving so you can still take advantage of those tools and not have them distract you while you’re on the road.”
Roanoke County resident James Anderson says he’s already seen a difference since the hands-free law went into effect. “I was not surprised that this law passed the General Assembly. I haven’t seen any of my neighbors, friends or family driving with their phones in hand at all this year. At the end of the day, this law is about keeping the roads safer for everybody.”