Texting and driving is distracted driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,179 people died in distracted driving accidents in 2014. Another 431,000 were injured. As per the Virginia Tech Traffic Institute, your eyes are off of the road for an average of five seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, you’re covering the length of a football field in that five seconds. On a highway, most people don’t travel at 55 miles per hour either.
Texting and driving is now a primary offense
Recognizing the inherent dangers of texting and driving, Virginia has enacted its own texting and driving law. Texting and driving is now a statutory primary offense. That means that if a police officer sees you pushing buttons on a cellular device and driving, there’s a valid basis for a traffic stop. Police don’t need another reason to pull you over. If you’re found guilty or plead guilty, fines have been increased from $20 for a first offense to $150 and $250 for a second offense.
The Virginia texting while driving statute isn’t getting out of the starting blocks though. It just doesn’t have any traction. Anybody who knows about the statute will just say that they were using their phone for purposes other than texting. A teenager with an average IQ can say that he or she was calling mom or using a GPS application on their phone. Unless a driver expressly admits to texting while driving, the Virginia statute has no bite to it. Without an admission of texting while driving or hard proof of it on somebody’s phone at the time of a stop, it’s going to be difficult for prosecutors to get convictions.
What the statute does do
Most police officers have an IQ beyond of that of the average teenager. Texting and driving is a primary offense. The fact that it’s a primary offense doesn’t authorize a police officer to search a vehicle on a texting while driving stop. If there’s contraband in plain view that the officer sees inside of the vehicle, or the odor of an alcoholic beverage is coming from the interior of the vehicle and/or the driver, there could be the basis of a much more serious investigation that begins then and there on the spot.
Texting and driving is downright dangerous. Simple common sense dictates against it. Don’t do it just because it’s defensible. You could get arrested for a more serious offense, or you could permanently injure or kill somebody. That’s when you’ll need to come up with a really good defense.