The Virginia Senate and House of Delegates last week passed bills that ban using a hand-held communication device unless it is in hands-free mode while operating a vehicle. Before the bill become law, the House must pass the Senate bill or vice versa followed by the governor signing the legislation.
Drivers would still be able to operate their phones if they are lawfully parked or stopped or are reporting an emergency. In short, if your phone is in your hand while driving, you have violated the new law.
Currently, Virginia only prohibits reading and writing email and text messages in a hand-held personal communications device while driving. The legislation, would extend that ban to using the device for making phone calls, checking social media and other purposes. If the distracted driving legislation become law, the penalty for a first offense is a $125 fine that rises to $250 for a second or subsequent violation.
FABB supports the Vision Zero concept, which proposes that adopting communities recognize that traffic deaths and serious injuries are preventable through proper engineering, enforcement, evaluation and education. And, while not perfect, this new distracted driving law will help in this endeavor. Virginia, however, is not participating in Vision Zero. It is aligning itself instead with the DriveSmart Virginia organization, which is good but is more focused on vehicle safety than pedestrians or bicyclists. On the plus side, the City of Alexandria adopted Vision Zero this month joining the other cities in the commonwealth that also participate.
FABB encourages all riders to set the example and put their phones down after buckling up. Also, make sure your family and friends follow suit and are aware of the current law and, if it becomes law, the distracted driving legislation.