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Del. Rust Texting While Driving Bill Incorporated Into HB1907

Bill, which would make texting while driving a primary offense with a fine of $250, has received wide bipartisan support,

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. 

See related:

• Tougher Texting-While-Driving Law Moves Forward in Virginia Legislature

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Ann H Csonka February 14, 2013 at 06:53 AM
Thanks, Tom, for pursuing texting while driving as a primary offense. Even though the slow traffic can be maddening and waste way too much time, there are other ways to communicate, and no messages are important enough to cause accidents. John & Ann
Douglas Manuel February 14, 2013 at 07:50 PM
I want to say that this seems like a great idea. I do wonder if it is strictly a texting violation or if using your phone as a GPS navigation device or selecting music has been considered as violations as well . How exactly how does one prove/enforce this if there are other applications in use on the phone? Can the Police seize the phone to do an analysis thereby gaining access to all the phones information? Could this effort lead to unintended consequences?
Barbara Glakas February 15, 2013 at 12:44 AM
I agree that this is a step in the right direction, but I am still concerned that the bill still has some loopholes that weakens it. This proposed law says you cannot punch LETTERS into a communication device for the purpose of texting, or read a text, but it does not preclude the driver from punching in NUMBERS or from reading a caller ID number. Therefore, if a police officer pulls a driver over for supposedly punching in letters, the driver can simply say they were not punching in letters – they were only punching in numbers. The onus would be on the police officer to prove otherwise and it would difficult to prove in court. We need a law that says drivers cannot use any kind of communication device while the car is moving, unless it is an emergency. We already have a law like that in Virginia for teenagers, now it needs to be extended to adults. Secondly, increasing the violation to reckless offence is fine, but the weakness in that aspect of the proposed law is that we have to wait until after the accident happens, and THEN the driver gets a reckless charge. We should be trying to prevent accidents from happening in the first place by not allowing the use of communication devices while driving.
Ann H Csonka February 15, 2013 at 04:53 AM
Both Douglas and Barbara make good points. I admit to not reading the current legislation in full . . . and hope the loopholes can be worked out. It wouldn't be the first time a law needs work to best meet the need. Hopefully it will be refined, clarified and tightened with experience.

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