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Virginia May See Stronger Texting Penalties

Crime Commission to discuss making texting behind the wheel a reckless driving charge.

The Commonwealth of Virginia may be considering stronger penalties for texting while driving.

The Virginia State Crime Commission will discuss Wednesday a draft of new legislation that would make texting while driving a reckless driving charge as well as a traffic offense, WTOP reports.

The commission makes recommendations to the General Assembly.

A Fairfax County judge ruled this year that the current texting-while-driving law precluded a reckless driving conviction against a man prosecutors said opened a text very close to the time he struck and killed a 19-year-old man on Route 7 near Dranesville in May 2011. The current law comes with penalties of $20 for a first offense and $50 for a second offense.

When the case went to trial in a Fairfax County court this year, Judge Thomas E. Gallahue ordered the charge against Gage dropped, his texting notwithstanding because of the 2009 Virginia law makes texting while driving a minor traffic infraction.

The penalty for reckless driving in Virginia is up to one year in jail and a $2500 fine, which is among one of the weakest penalties for the offense in the region. 

In Virginia, texting while driving is a secondary offense - police officers can only give a ticket for the violation if they pull a driver over for another reason.

In Maryland, texting while driving became subject to a $500 fine in 2011. Maryland drivers are also not supposed to talk on a handheld phone while driving, but that is considered a secondary offense.

A  Virginia bill that would have kept the lower penalties but made texting behind the wheel a primary offense passed the Senate last session, but stalled in the House of Delegates.

 

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Elizabeth December 04, 2012 at 01:39 PM
You'd think this would be a no-brainer, wouldn't you? But apparently, before a law can be passed, the death-toll has to approach "massacre" status. Driving scares the heck out of me now... you never know when a stupid, imbecilic, maniacal texter will fly across the road and slam into you... and get nothing more than a $20 ticket, IF that. Pass that law, Virginia Legislature. The life you save could be your own, if not someone you love!
John Weis December 04, 2012 at 02:11 PM
Would also propose a law making it illegal to be on a cell phone while driving. About 20% of those driving in my area are observed on the phone. Often they drift across the middle line or the side. Also they are slow to react to stop lights. Clearly they are distracted.
smallworld December 04, 2012 at 09:39 PM
It's astonishing to me that anyone would think it's okay to text while driving, and yet here we are. It used to be that if you'd see a weaving driver, you assumed alcohol; now you assume it's another self-centered texter. Agree with Elizabeth and John above -- make the penalties harsher, and include both talking and texting on the cell phone while driving. How is that people have lost sight of their responsibility to others? It seems ridiculous to have to point it out, but a car is potentially lethal, people!
Paula December 06, 2012 at 03:51 AM
Call me 'old-fashioned' but there is no such thing as multi-tasking when a person is behind the wheel. It is NOT okay to read a book/newspaper, knit, put on make-up, eat a bowl of cereal, text, surf the internet, talk on the phone, etc. while driving or even sitting in traffic. Our job and only job is to navigate the vehicle and obey the laws while doing so.. . . nothing more, nothing less.

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