Will the Distracted Driving Ban Expand in Virginia in 2019?

Many Virginia lawmakers are hoping that 2019 is the year the state’s distracted driving laws are expanded. The state’s General Assembly came close to doing so in 2018, but efforts fell short.

Personal Injury Lawyers Fairfax VACurrently, Virginia has a distracted driving law that only allows police officers to pull someone over for texting while driving. The issues, lawmakers say, are that it’s hard for police to enforce and then convict, and that it doesn’t do enough to stop distracted driving.

Republican Assemblyman Chris Collins is proposing a bill (HB 1181) that would expand Virginia’s distracted driving laws to include more than just texting while driving. If passed, it would ban:

  • Holding a cell phone to your ear
  • Browsing the Internet
  • Posting to – or checking in on – Facebook and other social media sites
  • Using GPS
  • Streaming music

Calls taken or placed using speakerphone via voice activation would still be OK. Drivers would also be permitted to use GPS or stream music if their phone was mounted to their dashboard or windshield.

The question opponents of an expansion to the law often raise is how officers will be able to enforce the ban if they’re already having trouble doing so with texting while driving. The bill’s backers are hoping that a $125 fine for a first offense and $250 for a second offense will be enough to deter people from driving while distracted.

Distracted Driving Causes Personal Injury

Officials from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles called distracted driving an “epidemic,” and said it was just as serious as drinking and driving.

In fact, in 2018, there were 248 deaths as a result of drunk driving in Virginia, compared to 208 as a result of distracted driving. DMV officials say this number is probably even higher, as it is difficult to identify all distracted driving cases.

What’s more, in 2017, there were more than 26,000 motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted driving, which resulted in 15,000 injuries. These numbers only count incidents where drivers reported distracted driving, however. Most experts predict that this number is probably much higher.

The state’s lawmakers are looking to put a stop to the distracted driving epidemic, and prevent the multitude of personal injury cases in Virginia, by enacting tougher laws. Distracted driving is the second leading cause of car accidents nationally, accounting for roughly 10 percent of all accidents, according to Distraction.gov.

While Virginia’s ban on texting has addressed the top source of distracted driving – since texting behind the wheel makes a driver 23 times more likely to crash – they feel there’s still more to be done.

What’s Next for Distracted Driving in Virginia?

Most drivers across the state are hoping Virginia’s legislators toughen the laws on distracted driving. DMV officials are pushing for it as well, as they hope to curb the increasing epidemic of distracted driving causing serious bodily injury and death.

If you or someone you love has been physically impacted as a result of a distracted driver in Fairfax, contact the personal injury lawyers in Fairfax VA at Hilton & Somer, LLC by calling (703) 782-8349.

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