VA Texting & Driving Bill Heads to McDonnell

Bill would impose harsher penalties, make texting while driving a primary offense.

A bill that would impose tougher penalties on those convicted of texting while driving cleared the state Senate on Tuesday and now heads to the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Del. Tom Rust's (R-86) House Bill 1357, which also addressed texting while driving and made it a primary offense, was incorporated into the bill last week. Rust said texting while driving is reckless behavior, and "committing another reckless, dangerous act shouldn't be required to stop the first." 

The bill increases the fine to $250 — up from $20 — for the first texting-while-driving offense and $500 for each subsequent conviction. It also makes texting while driving an aggravating circumstance to reckless driving, and so anyone convicted of such would face a mandatory minimum $500 penalty if they were texting while they were driving recklessly.

Texting while driving would also become a primary offense, which means police can stop someone on the suspicion that a driver is texting; current law allows police to charge someone with texting while driving only if they've stopped that person for another violation.

Sen. Mark Herring (D-33, Herndon) and Sen. Janet Howell (D-32, Reston) voted in favor of the bill, which passed 28-12.

A similar bill is awaiting third reading in the state House of Delegates. It will likely pass this week.

"The governor will review the bill when it reaches his desk," McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell told Patch in an email. "However, he does continue to have concerns about beginning to list more specific activities that are prohibited while driving."

In cases where two similar bills reach the governor's desk, whichever is signed last becomes the law of the land.

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J Anderson February 21, 2013 at 01:54 PM
"However, he does continue to have concerns about beginning to list more specific activities that are prohibited while driving." Huh? Ah....me thinks one should be DRIVING and not doing other things....
DGeorge February 23, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Why we need a bill to prohibit texting, eating, reading a newspaper, putting on makeup, watching tv while driving is beyond me. Anyone stupid enough to engage in those activities are candidates for the Darwin award. Unfortunately they usually take some innocent person with them when they become award candidates. Fines are not enough, they should forfeit their driving privileges for a long long time. Get them off the road and we will all be safer.


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