Virginia Texting While Driving Law: What You Need To Know
Texting is the most dangerous form of distracted driving. Nearly one of every four accidents results from a driver who was texting. Nationwide, that’s 1.6 million accidents and more than 330,000 injuries each year. Our Virginia texting while driving law makes it illegal for anyone to text and drive in the state.
What the Virginia Texting While Driving Law Says
The law applies to more than texts and to more than cell phones. In Virginia, it is illegal to operate any motor vehicle while using any handheld personal communications device to manually enter letters or text as a means of communicating or read an email or text message sent to or stored in the device. The prohibition does not apply to reading or entering a name or number or caller identification information.
The Virginia texting while driving law was originally passed in 2009. Significant changes were made in 2013. Texting or emailing while driving is now a primary offense, which means you can be pulled over if a law enforcement officer observes you texting while you are driving. Before 2013, texting was a secondary offense, so you could only be cited for a violation if you were pulled over for a different traffic violation.
At the same time the nature of the offense changed, the fine increased substantially. A first offense is a $125 fine. Second and subsequent offenses carry a $250 fine. A person who is convicted of both reckless driving and texting is required to pay a mandatory minimum $250, even if it is the first texting conviction.
Texting while driving violations in Virginia are pre-payable offenses. That means you can pay the fine and avoid going to court. However, pre-payment is equivalent to pleading guilty. A subsequent offense will be charged as a second offense and the higher fine will apply. Pre-paying the fine also results in DMV demerit points on your driver’s license.
While texting and emailing while driving are illegal in Virginia, the state does not prohibit cell phone use entirely, with a couple important exceptions:
- Drivers under 18 years of age are not permitted to use a cell phone for any reason;
- School bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones for any reason.
Other drivers are permitted to use cell phones and other handheld devices for purposes other than texting and emailing. It’s important to know that nearby jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia and Maryland, do prohibit cell phone use entirely while driving. North Carolina’s laws are very similar to those of Virginia in prohibiting texting for all drivers but permitting other cell phone use by drivers over age 18.
Exceptions to the Texting Prohibition
There are some narrow exceptions to the prohibition. They include:
- An emergency vehicle operator engaged in performance of official duties;
- An operator in a vehicle that is lawfully parked or stopped;
- A driver using GPS or wireless devices to transmit or receive data;
- A person using a handheld device to report an emergency.
The law defines "emergency vehicle operator" very specifically. The exception does not apply to just anyone who is responding to an emergency.
If You’ve Been Injured By Someone Who Violated the Virginia Texting While Driving Law
Many accidents in Virginia are caused by people who violate Virginia’s texting while driving law. If you’ve been seriously injured in an accident in Virginia that was caused by someone else, or if a loved one has been injured or died in a Virginia accident that was another person’s fault, you should talk with an experienced Virginia car accident attorney. The Jeff Brooke Team is here to help you and your family. Contact us by phone at (757) 347-8524 or by using our online contact form.
Jeff Brooke is a personal injury attorney devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries or lost a loved one as a result of someone else’s negligent and careless actions. The Jeff Brooke Team serves all of southeastern Virginia. The firm helps clients in the Greater Tidewater and Greater Hampton Roads areas, including in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Chesterfield. The Jeff Brooke Team also handles cases in northeastern North Carolina, including the Outer Banks.