State Police cite hundreds for texting while driving

policecar3Since the act of texting while driving became a primary offense July 1, 2013, Virginia State Police troopers have cited several hundred motorists statewide. From July 1 through Sept. 28, 2013, troopers have stopped and charged 328 drivers for violating Virginia’s “texting while driving” law.

During the 2013 Virginia General Assembly Session, legislators amended Code of Virginia 46.2-1078.1 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-1078.1) to make it a primary offense. A violation of this section is a traffic infraction punishable, for the first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $250. The law applies to the operator of a passenger vehicle in motion and exempts law-enforcement and other first responders.

Since the law went into effect, Virginia state troopers have been enforcing it just like any other primary offense. The trooper must observe the illegal conduct of the vehicle’s operator, thus providing the trooper with reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on that vehicle. Further investigation determines what, if any, offense(s) the driver will be cited for by the trooper. Troopers have the discretion to warn, summons or arrest a violator.

“Keep in mind that this data does not provide an exact account of the problem that exists concerning texting while driving on Virginia’s highways,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “Depending on the observation of the investigating trooper, drivers can also be cited for reckless driving and, therefore, not included as a texting-while-driving violation. Regardless, texting while driving puts at risk the driver, passengers and every other motorist, motorcyclist, pedestrian and bicyclist sharing the roadway with that inattentive driver.”

In addition, state legislators this past session also established Code of Virginia 46.2-341.20.5 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-341.20C5). The law prohibits anyone from texting while driving a commercial vehicle or a vehicle used to transport between nine and 15 passengers. The law does permit “texting when necessary to communicate with law enforcement or other emergency services.”

Code of Virginia 46.2-919.1 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+cod+46.2-919.1) prohibits the use of any wireless telecommunications devices by persons driving school buses.

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