Texting While Driving in Virginia
The law is constantly adapting to new technology. Today, cell phones and texting are a primary means of communication. They are also a tremendous distraction, and we know that distracted drivers are dangerous drivers.
Several years ago, the Virginia General Assembly voted to prohibit texting while driving. You can probably tell from your own travels that this law has had only limited effect (I was amazed several weeks ago to be driving parallel to another driver who had her “device” perched on top; of the steering wheel and texting for over three miles!!) While we all share a sense of frustration with the amount of texting, civil liberty concerns are also important. In fact, there is no end of distractions for drivers: billboards, six-disc CD changers, multiple dashboard buttons, etc. Do we really want state laws that say we cannot indulge in these modern conveniences?
For this reason, the General Assembly, took a balanced approach to texting while driving laws in the last session. It elevated “TWD” to a primary offense, meaning that a police officer can pull you over simply because of texting. But multiple exceptions to the rule continue: a tap on the phone to answer a phone call is still allowed, and how would a police officer know the difference?
Unfortunately, this cat and mouse game will probably go to the drivers who insist on texting. The police simply don’t have the time or resources to hunt down all of the offenders. Clearly, some common sense and a healthy respect for civic duty are in order. People who insist on texting while driving should think about the weekly toll of a carnage seen in emergency rooms and hospitals (and yes, law firms) from drivers who refuse to keep their eyes on the road. We predict that legislators will allow the law to stand as-is for some time. But all it will take is one tragedy in our Commonwealth to turn the tide of public opinion. So, texters need to ask themselves a simple question: Can’t that text wait? We are all eager to make connections, to hear from loved ones, to pursue our businesses and all of the other wonderful things that modern technology allows us to do, but the legal effect of making a bad decision can be catastrophic. For once, we’re hoping that drivers can make a good decision before the legislature has to step in with more restrictive laws.