At least 10 bills were introduced to address, in some manner, the increase in traffic accidents due to drivers’ use of mobile phones and other handheld devices. All four Senate bills have been killed in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. Four House bills have also been killed, including HB 116 (Webert), which was backed by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and Virginia Sheriffs’ Association and would have authorized localities to adopt local ordinances on the subject.
Two bills, however, are moving forward, HB 181 (Collins) broadens the current statute that bans texting while driving to prohibit any use of a handheld device in a manner that “substantially diverts” a driver’s attention from operation of the vehicle. A violation of this prohibition would be considered less serious than a reckless driving charge, with a maximum fine of $500. The bill will be discussed on the House Floor today. HB 1525 (Yancey) would impose a mandatory minimum fine of $250 for violating this prohibition while driving in a highway work zone. The bill passed out of the House, 99-0.
VACo Contact: Khaki LaRiviere