CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A year after Virginia toughened its texting while driving laws, officers are struggling with enforcing it.
"It's a very difficult law to enforce. It's a very common place violation," Chesterfield Police Lt. David Shand said.
The law, which took effect on July 1, 2013, makes texting while driving a primary offense which means law enforcement do not need another reason to pull you over if they believe you are violating that law.
Ryan Wilson, 19, learned about these stricter penalties the hard way July 21, when he crashed the vehicle he was driving into a utility pole on Salem Church Road in Chesterfield county.
"It was like I was on a roller coaster like coming to a dead stop just like 60 to zero. I just closed my eyes real tight and pushed back and was hoping I would wake up when I hit" Wilson said.
Wilson now faces a $125 fine, which he says is a small price to pay since is alive and didn't hurt anyone else.
"I couldn't believe I was alive. I made sure my body was intact and wasn't separated hanging out the windows," Wilson said. "I just thank the Lord that he was right beside me and had an angel there or something there to protect me."
"It's always great when somebody owns up to their mistake," Shand said. "Luckily in his case nobody was injured. He did knock out power [and] a lot of people were inconvenienced based on his inattention. I think a light bulb came on for him when he realized he could have been killed or he could have killed somebody."
Wilson hopes his mistake will make others think twice before they text and drive. He says he will never do it again or be a passenger in a car with someone who is.
"I'll just leave my phone right in my pocket. I don't care if it rings and rings and rings or vibrates. I'm not texting and driving anymore. Definitely lesson learned," Wilson said.
In 2013, the Virginia Department of Transportation says Chesterfiled County had 23 texting while driving convictions, followed by Henrico with 16 and Richmond with 15. Thus far this year Chesterfield has made 24 arrests.
Statewide, from July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014 the Virginia State Police have cited 1,030 drivers texting while driving.
"Driving behaviors become habits so what happens is if you text 100 times and nothing bad happens you just assume nothing ever bad is going to happen. It only takes a split second and one instant to change your life or end your life or seriously impact others," Shand said.
|Texting While Driving Convictions|
|July 1, 2013 - December 31, 2013*|
|Colonial Heights City||2|
|Isle of Wight County||1|
|King and Queen County||1|
|King George County||3|
|New Kent County||5|
|Newport News City||12|
|Prince William County||62|
|Prince George County||1|
|Virginia Beach City||71|