Texting while driving now primary offense in Va.

Posted on: 8:21 pm, June 28, 2013, by , updated on: 11:55am, July 1, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)– A new law makes texting while driving a primary offense starting July 1. Before now, it had been a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement can only cite drivers who are breaking another moving violation or law.

While the merits of the new law are similar to the existing law, texting while driving can now be tied to reckless driving. [BONUS: Sign the W82TEXT Pledge and share to help spread the word]

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The first offense for texting while driving, under the new law, carries a $125 fine. The second offense carries at $250 fine, which can be added in addition to reckless driving fines.

The new law also requires that the Department of Criminal Justice Services provide training to law enforcement.

While the new law is meant to prevent distracted driving, lawmakers and policy advisors acknowledge that enforcing the law will be challenging.

The law prohibits drivers from manually entering multiple letters or text, it also forbids drivers from reading an email or text message transmitted to the device.

However, there’s an exception for drivers accessing numbers and names already stored within their devices.

The law also makes exceptions for drivers who are lawfully parked or stopped, or drivers using a GPS device.  The law also exempts emergency officials who are engaged in job duties, or drivers who are reporting an emergency.

Dana Schrad, Executive Director of The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, says a committee of law enforcement and commonwealth’s attorneys will also help provide policy advice and training to law enforcement agencies across the commonwealth.

While Schrad acknowledges the challenges of enforcing the law, she says it will be a powerful tool for law enforcement conducting crash investigations.  She says it will also serve as a deterrent to drivers, especially younger drivers.

“The real message here is that people understand that if you try to get around this law, you’re just putting yourself and others at risk,” Schrad says.

Click here to learn more about W82TEXT, a grassroots initiative from CBS 6 and Emroch and Kilduff aimed at reducing texting while driving. Click here to take the W82TEXT pledge on WTVR.com.