Think back to the last time you were behind the wheel. Did you pick up your phone to check your texts or to see who was calling? Well, starting January 1, 2021, picking up or holding your phone in Virginia is enough to get you pulled over and ticketed. Using your phone in any capacity is now considered a primary offense, meaning an officer of the law can pull you over for this offense.
Interestingly, Virginia previously banned texting and e-mailing while driving, but due to the lack of specificity surrounding the law, other uses of the phone were permissible until now. In 2019, distracted driving accounted for over 20% of accidents that occurred across the state of Virginia. While not all distracted driving occurrences are phone-related, more than half account for phone usage in some way or another.
Seasoned personal injury lawyer Jim Parrish says, “This piece of legislation is important to keep you, me, our families and our loved ones safe on the road.” Mr. Parrish continues, ”It’s part of my job to fight for those that have died in distracted driving accidents. When you realize how many families have lost loved ones because of cell phones, it takes a toll on your morale and hits you harder and harder every time. I look forward to safer roads in 2021.”
With this new bill signed by Governor Northam on July 8, 2020, Virginia will finally join the rest of the D.C. metropolitan area in an effort to remain hands-free while driving. Prior to this law, the specificities of the law in regard to texting and e-mailing made it difficult for officers to lay eyes on text message bubbles before pulling people over and charging them. This new hands-free law hopes to change this by only requiring officers to spot a phone in hand. There is one exemption to this hands-free law — using your phone to report an emergency. Do not hesitate to pick up your phone if you need to contact first responders.
What Happens If I Get Caught?
If you are a first time offender, the law is a bit more lenient with a $125 fine. After your first offense however, you will be subject to a $250 fine. That said, regardless of how many prior offenses you have had, if you are caught using your phone in a construction zone, the fine is $250. Note that if you are lawfully parked and stopped, you will not get fined for using your phone; however, red lights or stop signs are fair game for police officers to pull you over.
To prevent getting fined, we suggest bluetooth headphones, but keep in mind that Virginia law allows drivers to use only one earbud at a time.
All of us at the Parrish Law Firm are in full support of Virginia’s new hands-free law. If there is anything we are passionate about, it is doing our part to make roads safer for our community. Stay safe out there, Virginia!
Injured in a Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, call us today for a FREE legal consultation at (571) 229 – 1800 or visit us at www.theparrishlawfirm.com/contact.