Police begin enforcing Virginia’s new hands-free driving law

Police begin enforcing Virginia’s new hands-free driving law

It’s the most restrictive law we’ve seen here in the Commonwealth and it means no phone in your hand while driving for any reason.

Jan. 1 is usually the time people try to break their bad habits.

For many this year, putting the phone down while driving is going to be a tough one to break, but now, there’s no longer a choice.

It’s a new day for Bedford County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Keith Peterson. Now he can pull over drivers on their phone and actually make it count.

“Outside of someone specifically saying, ‘yes, I was texting and driving,’ the law was almost unenforceable. This law will now allow us to enforce distracted driving laws,” Peterson said.

Hands-free driving started Friday and now, driving with a phone in your hand for any reason is illegal.

There are signs all over the roads and officers are watching closely.

“I’ve seen it in my personal vehicle just driving around town. Certainly seen it in my patrol vehicle and we try to pull over and enforce the best that we can but I do know that a decent number of us are excited for the new law because we’ve seen the results of distracted driving here in Bedford County,” Peterson said.

Bedford County pulled over a few, if any, drivers under the new law on its first day. But locals like Tony Nichols are all for it.

“I think you ought to get a ticket if you’re on your phone, when I’m driving my phone’s sitting. I don’t pick it up. A text comes across, I leave it alone,” Nichols said.

10 News hit the road for ourselves to see if people were following the new law, and we mostly saw attentive drivers. We saw one woman talking on her phone driving Interstate 81 with out-of-state tags.

But Albert Moore, passing through from Alabama, said he saw people breaking the new law.

“The things I have seen, the swerving on the road, especially while it’s raining is not safe and I fully support this,” Moore said.

Bedford County is putting out its own set of signs and billboards to remind drivers of the new rule. Peterson said it will be warnings until Feb. 1 as the measure is meant to be educational, not punitive.

“We will still pull you over, still kind of educate people but give them a chance, give them warnings, and just let them know about this new law with COVID being what it is sometimes people just don’t get that information that they need.” Peterson said.

Not every locality is giving the grace period.

First ticket offenders will be fined $125 under the new law with a $250 fine for any subsequent violations.