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Virginia Texting-While-Driving Bill Heads to Governor's Desk

Bill would impose harsher penalties, make texting while driving a primary offense.

A bill that would impose tougher penalties on those convicted of texting while driving cleared the state Senate on Tuesday and now heads to the desk of Gov. Bob McDonnell.

The bill increases the fine to $250 — up from $20 — for the first texting-while-driving offense and $500 for each subsequent conviction. It also makes texting while driving an aggravating circumstance to reckless driving. Anyone convicted of such would face a mandatory minimum $500 penalty if they were texting while they were driving recklessly.

Texting while driving would also become a primary offense, which means police can stop someone on the suspicion that a driver is texting; current law allows police to charge someone with texting while driving only if they've stopped that person for another violation.

All three senators who represent Arlington voted in favor of the bill, which passed 28-12.

A similar bill is awaiting third reading in the state House of Delegates. It will likely pass this week.

"The governor will review the bill when it reaches his desk," McDonnell spokesman Jeff Caldwell told Patch in an email. "However, he does continue to have concerns about beginning to list more specific activities that are prohibited while driving."

In cases where two similar bills reach the governor's desk, whichever is signed last becomes the law of the land.

Danny Donahue February 20, 2013 at 12:07 PM
The technology exists that will block cell phone signals in cars while the engine is running. Simply saying "don't do it" won't stop anyone from texting/calling while they drive. A more sensible law would be to require the jammers to be installed and working in every vehicle thereby taking away the temptation. That said, I'm th last guy in the world to say the government has a right to tell us what to do with our own body, tec. But, texting, dialing, reading, playing with CDs etc is a definite distraction and while you may have freedom of your own, that freedom does not give you the right to endanger my life, the lives of my family/friends/neighbors, or anyone else. If you want to talk to your friends do so before you get into a 2000 pound weapon that requires all of your attention.
Joe George February 20, 2013 at 12:15 PM
I personally do not like this as more than a secondary offense, since the swirving attributed to not paying attention to the road while texting is reason enough for an officer to pull someone over and ticket them. The mandatory minimums should be enough in that case.
Robert Morris February 20, 2013 at 12:59 PM
I align more with Danny Donahue on this subject, but would prefer heavier fines. If you, after you have been explained how dangerous texting while driving can be, and that a simple text message could mean the lives of several persons, you deserve to be hammered if you are caught. I would support first offense fines of $1500, doubling for the second offense, and licence revocation for the third offense. This is at least as serious an offense as driving under the influence, and needs to be addressed as such.
Tom Higgins February 20, 2013 at 03:44 PM
I agree with Robert Morris completely.

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