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Distracted driving has become a public safety crisis, and now long-overdue legislation aims at reversing the trend.
by Jonathan B. Slater, attorney Burnett & Williams P.C. Orange, Culpeper, Charlottesville
Existing Virginia law that prohibits texting while driving has left ample room for other forms of cell phone distraction. Lawmakers are taking action. Last week the General Assembly passed legislation to prohibit drivers from using handheld mobile devices behind the wheel.*
Distracted driving is an ongoing epidemic in Virginia. The statistics paint a scary picture. In 2017, for example, there were 26,123 crashes involving driver distraction according to the Virginia DMV. What’s borne out by the statistics is routinely observed as we drive around the roads and highways of the Commonwealth. A quick glance at nearby motorists frequently provides a firsthand account of just how serious the problem remains.
This legislation is expected to clear final procedural votes and go into effect on July 1, 2019. If the existing law on texting while driving was inadequate to meaningfully curb distracted driving, let’s hope that lawmakers can tighten the screws and start to reverse this dangerous trend.
*In an interesting twist, a small difference in wording between the House and Senate versions ended up scuttling this version of the hands free ban, so changes are on hold. But the sponsors have said they are committed to trying again. We’ll keep an eye on it!