Texting While Driving in Virginia: a Primary Offense
Virginia’s laws regarding texting and driving are changing. As of July 1, texting became a primary offense, meaning that the police can pull you over even if this is the only probable cause they have that you have committed a driving offense.
The rash of recent texting while driving accidents and a prominent new documentary film have put this type of distracted driving squarely in the news lately. Indeed, texting has become a scourge. We see it everywhere and the effect is bound to be devastating as texting becomes more prevalent. Just the other day, my wife and I were parallel to a driver for four or five miles who was driving with her cell phone propped on top of the steering wheel. She was furiously working the buttons of her phone with her thumbs while trying to maintain control of the steering wheel with her other fingers. Her head bobbed up and down as her eyes alternated between the screen and her view of the road ahead. Talk about an accident waiting to happen!
Texting is not the only distraction to safe driving. Any distraction can be deadly, and a driver who believes that just because he refrains from texting that he is a safe driver is sorely mistaken. Think about the list of permitted activities and how dangerous they can be. How many of us have seen drivers eating, applying make-up, combing hair, adjusting the radio, admiring an attractive person, sightseeing, yelling at the kids, petting a pet, etc. At 60 miles an hour, your vehicle travels 8 feet per second. A whole lot can happen in that time, and it does not matter whether the distraction came from a permitted activity or an illegal one.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the police should locate and prosecute texting drivers. But, until drivers actually “get it,” it is unclear how much effect there will be with stricter enforcement. The bottom line is that people need to think about both the criminal and civil consequences of distracted driving. They also need to think about the moral consequences, but that is for a different blog. At the end of the day, a $75 ticket for texting while driving may be the least of a distracted driver’s concern. Imagine the shame, guilt, and financial devastation that would come from causing a multiple fatality. We have seen it in our own office. If drivers could actually experience the guilt and shame that comes with such a catastrophe, maybe then they would begin to appreciate the awesome responsibility that comes with the operation of a motor vehicle. Until then, all we can do is continue to publicize this problem and help those families that have become the unfortunate victims of this misconduct.