The Virginia Legislature is vetting a number of bills that would implement harsher texting while driving laws, including Del. Tom Rust's (R-86) House Bill 1357.
Last week, the house passed House Bill 1907, which increases the fine for the first texting-while-driving offense to $250 upon conviction, and $500 for each subsequent conviction. The current fine is $20.
The bill passed the House in a 92-4 vote, and was unanimously supported by the Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday.
It is currently being vetted by the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
The legislation would make texting while driving a primary offense, which means police can stop someone just on the suspicion that a driver may be texting at the wheel. As it stands, police can only issue texting-while-driving fines if the driver is first pulled over for another violation.
The bill also makes texting while driving an aggravating circumstance to reckless driving, and so anyone convicted such would face a mandatory minimum $500 penalty if they were texting while they were driving recklessly.
Rust's bill, HB1357, would also change texting while driving or reading email on a cell phone from a secondary to a primary offense. It received wide bipartisan support and was incorporated into HB1907.
"As a secondary offense, texting while driving is punishable only if a driver is stopped for committing some other offense with it, like speeding," Rust said in a press release. "On its own, texting while driving is a reckless behavior, and committing another reckless, dangerous act shouldn’t be required to stop the first."
The Senate passed a similar bill, Senate Bill 1222. On Wednesday, a House subcommittee unanimously recommended the bill with amendments back to the full Courts of Justice Committee for consideration.
• Tougher Texting-While-Driving Law Moves Forward in Virginia Legislature
[Want to stay on top of news in Herndon? Sign up for our daily or breaking news emails.]