Virginia’s much heralded law that allows police to pull over motorists who are texting is completely toothless. The new law that allows police to pull over motorists for texting while driving and raises the fine from $20 to $125 for the first violation and $250 for the second has a glaring hole. The bill does not restrict the use of a handheld device as a GPS navigational system or even as a phone.
“While this law is a step in the right direction, we still have a ways to go,” Fairfax County Police Captain Susan Culin told the Washington Post. “It will still be very difficult for officers to determine if the vehicle operator is dialing their phone or accessing GPS, versus texting.” Lesson of the day: lying to the police can be very effective.
Not that it’s a good thing that Virginia lawmakers don’t seem to care about distracted driving. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that 5,474 people were killed and 448,000 were injured in 2009 by drivers who were distracted while driving. To put that in perspective, just over 4,400 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the war began in 2003. Furthermore, the entire population of Tampa is just under 340,000. Meaning your inability to drive without putting your damned phone down killed more people than a major war and injured the equivalent of 1.25 Tampas.
Virginia is somewhat behind Washington D.C. where there is a ban on all hand-held device use and where 63,000 tickets for the offense were issued from 2006-2011. I know I personally have seen people get pulled over for using a phone in the District and I’ve also personally had to swerve to avoid multiple vehicles whose drivers were texting while driving.
Drive safe and listen to the radio.