New bill would make texting while driving primary offense

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RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -  A bill making its way through the State Capitol would make texting a primary offense.

Right now you can only be fined for using a mobile device if you’re pulled over for another violation, like running a red light or speeding.

The legislation calls for a $20 fine the first offense and a $50 fine for the second one. [READ: Bill to let cops pull over texting drivers in Va. moves forward]

However, there are exceptions. For example, if you find yourself in an emergency or if you’re legally parked.

AAA Mid-Atlantic's Martha Meade said the change in law is needed because a majority of people know that texting while driving is dangerous, but still do it anyway.

“No message is worth a life. They can all wait," said Meade. "We know that distracting driving is an enormous problem, eclipsing even drunk driving in the minds of people in Virginia.”

Meade, who testified in favor of the legislation before the Virginia Senate Transportation Committee, said the bill will face stiff opposition this General Assembly session, but the legislation is about common sense.

“They have a long way to go," said Meade. "It’s probably an uphill battle. But I think it’s a battle worth fighting.”

However, critics argue the legislation is well intentioned, but that it would infringe upon personal liberties and create a thorny issue with privacy if it became law.

“So let’s just pick on the people who are texting," said Paul Goldman, a political analyst. "Next it will be lets pick on people who are eating big hamburgers. I mean where does it stop?”

Goldman said if the bill makes it on the books it will force police officers to check your cell phone to prove you’re in violation.

"Do the policemen want to be doing that? Do you want them doing that? Do you want that invasion of privacy?”

Drivers CBS 6 News' Greg McQuade talked to said there is no room on the roads for texting and driving.

Chris Hoggard said texters behind the wheel can be a menace.

“They think nothing is going to happen," said Hoggard. "Not going to get in accident. They definitely push it.”

Chauncey Wallace from Richmond also wants drivers to put the phone down.

“Be responsible," he said. "Don’t put your life and other people’s lives in jeopardy just because you want to text. Move over to a parking lot.”