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Virginia Texting-While-Driving Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

Bill would impose harsher penalties, make texting while driving a primary offense.

A bill that would impose tougher penalties on those convicted of texting while driving cleared the state Senate on Tuesday and now heads to the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The bill increases the fine to $250—up from $20—for the first texting-while-driving offense and $500 for each subsequent conviction. It also makes texting while driving an aggravating circumstance to reckless driving, and so anyone convicted of such would face a mandatory minimum $500 penalty if they were texting while they were driving recklessly.

Texting while driving would also become a primary offense, which means police can stop someone on the suspicion that a driver is texting; current law allows police to charge someone with texting while driving only if they've stopped that person for another violation.

Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th), who represents the Del Ray area, voted in favor of the bill. It passed 28-12.

A similar bill is awaiting third reading in the state House of Delegates. It will likely pass this week.

"The governor will review the bill when it reaches his desk," McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell told Patch in an email. "However, he does continue to have concerns about beginning to list more specific activities that are prohibited while driving."

In cases where two similar bills reach the governor's desk, whichever is signed last becomes the law of the land.

For the quickest updates, "like" Del Ray Patch on Facebook and follow @delraypatch on Twitter.

Jonathan Krall February 20, 2013 at 04:53 PM
This is a good step forward, but the National Transportation Safety Board recommends a full ban on cell phone use by drivers. Traffic fatalities have been trending downwards, but only for the people on the inside of the cars. In DC, the majority of traffic fatalities are people walking or bicycling, hit by cars. The problem is that the airbags only protect people on the _inside_ of the car. As Alexandria becomes more transit-oriented (like DC), this will be more of an issue here. We are already at the point where only 60 percent of Alexandria commuters drive to work in a car. NTSB info here: http://www.ntsb.gov/news/2012/120210b.html
CMurphy February 20, 2013 at 11:26 PM
Eh, most of us can multi-task and don't need to have our phones taken away. And this is doubly true as long as APD officers can drive all over the City checking their cellphones. And we both know that folks walking outside of crosswalks after daylight hours make up the majority of pedestrian fatalities around here. Banning cell phone use by drivers may not mitigate those numbers much.
Sarah haut February 21, 2013 at 02:33 AM
Interesting point Jonathan. I'm not an advocate for texting while driving, but I also think that some of the accidents where pedestrians and cyclists are hit are because they are not observing the laws. I saw a near miss last weekend at the intersection of Mt. Vernon and Monroe where a cyclist made a left turn after the light had turned red and was almost hit by a car. Fortunately, the driver was not distracted and was able to slam on the brakes.

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