Now that both houses of the state legislature have approved the new distracted driving ban police officers will soon be empowered to stop drivers they see who are violating the ban and write them a ticket not for $20, but for $250. If they are stopped again for texting and driving, a second offense fine will cost them $500. And any driver stopped for reckless driving who is also texting behind the wheel, they will pay a mandatory minimum $500 fine, plus any other additional charges.
Virginia, like many states, initially caved in to public pressure to pass legislation aimed at drivers who were texting behind the wheel, or similarly distracted. However, not fully understanding the dangers of distracted driving and the ways in which law enforcment officers might be able to enforce such a law, they made it a secondary offense. That means that police officers must stop drivers for doing something else wrong before writing them a ticket for distracted driving.
In the early days of mandatory seat belt use, police officers were not permitted to stop drivers only for failing to buckle up. They had to find another reason to pull them over first, then they could write them an additional ticket for not wearing a seat belt. Not long after these mandatory seat belt laws went into effect legislators across the nation changed the law so police could stop drivers just for not wearing their seat belt.
Now they are beginning to treat distracted driving with the same amount of importance when it comes to public safety. At least, they are in Virginia.