The new anti-texting ban in Virginia apparently has a rather large loophole. Although Virginia legislators have made texting while driving a primary offense, allowing police to pull over drivers they see with a phone in their hand, it allows drivers to use their phones for calls, to check voice mail or use their phone for purposes such as checking a map. Police are not permitted to confiscate the phone which means they must rely on the drivers honesty to know exactly how they were using the phone.

If the driver says they were “checking voice mail” or “checking the map” police have no choice but to issue them a warning and let them go.

It’s great that Virginia legislators increased the fine for texting while driving from $20 to $125 for the first offense and $250 for a second offense, but because they did not address the full range of ways phones can distract a driver they left it open for drivers to slip through the net. This is unfortunate because repeated studies have shown that not only is distracted driving a growing danger on the roadways, the incidence of distracted driving has dramatically increased in the past few years and that trend is continuing to grow. That means distracted driving, already a major cause of vehicle related fatalities is likely to stay that way for at least the foreseeable future.

In Virginia it wouldn’t surprise if legislators revisit their new law in a year or so and begin the process of closing that loophole. Otherwise the law doesn’t have much chance of being effective, unless you believe most drivers who are questioned about whether or not they deserve a $125 are likely to say “yes” or whether you believe they will do what most people would do, and lie.