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Legislators join forces to require hands-free mobile phone use while driving

Distracted DrivingDel. Chris Collins and Sen. Richard Stuart are leading a growing effort to save lives by toughening Virginia’s distracted driving law. Collins and Stuart have partnered with the Drive Smart Virginia Coalition for Safe Driving to craft a bill that prohibits drivers from using a wireless device while driving, unless that device is operated in a hands-free manner.

Originally passed in 2009, the existing law is antiquated and addresses only texting and emailing while driving.

“We see too many traffic crashes and tragedies caused by distracted driving,” said Collins. “This is affecting everyone, from road users, to law enforcement officials and first responders trying to keep us safe, to highway workers who are maintaining and improving our roadways. It’s time for us to take action to protect those using our roads in order to save lives in the Commonwealth.”

Traffic fatalities in Virginia have increased every year since 2013, and last year 25% of those fatalities were caused by distracted driving. “As our phones have grown far more advanced and there is so much more to distract us, there are countless numbers of reasons why a hands-free phone law is needed,” said Stuart. “I am optimistic that 2019 is the year that the General Assembly of Virginia will vote to save the lives of so many Virginians.”

Legislators in both the House and Senate have signed on in support, hailing from rural and urban areas, both Democrats and Republicans. These include Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax), Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), Del. Mike Mullin (D-Williamsburg), Del. Mike Webert (R-Culpeper), Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond) and Del. Margaret Ransone (R-Northumberland). HB1811/SB1341 would prohibit the use of a handheld personal communications device while operating a motor vehicle unless the device is specifically designed to allow hands-free and voice operation and is being used in that manner.

The Drive Smart Virginia Coalition for Safe Driving is a diverse coalition of law enforcement, businesses, and associations that agree that distracted driving is a problem that must be addressed.

“Our goal is to reduce injuries and fatalities on the roadways of Virginia,” said Janet Brooking, Drive Smart Virginia Executive Director. “Distracted driving has been identified as a leading causative factor, and hand-held phone use is the most pressing issue due to the cognitive, visual, and manual distractions involved.”

augusta free press
augusta free press