People who are caught holding a phone while driving in the Commonwealth will be fined $125 on the first offense.
“In Aug. 2013, I lost my sister Bethany, my niece Lauren, and my little, soon to be niece Abby, she was seven, in a car crash,” Dempsey said.
According to Dempsey, a distracted truck driver was traveling about 55 miles per hour on an off-ramp when he collided with the back of her sister’s car. She said that crash ultimately led to an even larger collision involving six other vehicles.
On Jan. 1, one of the biggest proposals Dempsey has fought for will become a reality. It will become illegal for Virginia drivers to hold a phone while driving.
Under the new law, drivers who are caught with a cell phone in their hand in the new year will be subject to $125 on the first offense. A driver can expect a $250 fine for a second offense.
Surovell said Virginia first tackled the distracted driving issue in 2007 when lawmakers passed a bill that made entering letters or numbers in a phone while driving a secondary offense. At the time, drivers could only be cited for the action if they were pulled over for another offense.
“I've seen a lot of people stop for what they felt were improper reasons,” he said. “And I felt like that law enforcement sometimes abuses their ability to stop people and that gave me concern.”
Surovell said the same mentality fueled opposition to this latest measure. He said some people still worry certain texting and driving laws can lead to other government restrictions and possible racial profiling from law enforcement.
“It became very clear to me, very fast, that this is behavior that we need to start putting more legal restrictions on,” he said.
“Police in Virginia basically just weren't writing it up,” he said. “Because it's impossible to show what somebody was doing with that phone in their hand. It was actually technically legal to chase Pokémon while driving or look at Facebook while driving.”
“I think a key thing for people to realize about this law is that it is about saving lives,” she said. “So, it's about saving your life. It's about making sure that you don't take someone else's life. It really is a small inconvenience to take.
“I expect because people from Northern Virginia probably work and travel in Maryland and Washington on a regular basis, they're already accustomed to a law like this,” she said. “I expect they will be the easiest ones to get acclimated to the new law because of their neighbors already having that law.”
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