In Virginia, it's illegal to text and drive. Now the Commonwealth wants to say "hands off your phone"—for good.
The Virginia House of Delegates will address a proposed bill that aims to ban not just calling, texting, and using your phone while behind the wheel, but even holding your phone in your hand. The bill, HB 874, is currently moving through the Virginia state legislature in Richmond.
Proposed by Del. Jeff Bourne (D-Richmond) this month, the bill would explicitly declare it unlawful for any "motor vehicle driver"... to "hold a personal mobile communications device."
Back in the fall of 2019, the city of Richmond voted unanimously to pass a bill banning any use of a mobile device while operating a motor vehicle. While it's not illegal to have your phone in your hands (for now), Bourne's bill would likely have public support.
“Too many people are being affected, being killed, being harmed,” Bourne said. “Families are being tormented by distracted driving and those accidents that result from that.”
According to the Legislan website, which tracks bills in the state legislature, the actual text of proposed Virginia House Bill 874 reads:
"A BILL to amend and reenact § 46.2-1078.1 of the Code of Virginia, relating to holding handheld 5 personal communications devices while driving a motor vehicle....
Holding handheld personal communications devices while driving a motor vehicle. Prohibits any person from holding a handheld personal communications device while driving a motor vehicle. Current law prohibits..
(i) the reading of any email or text message and manually entering letters or text in such a device as a means of communicating and
(ii) holding a personal communications device while driving in a work zone.
The bill expands the exemptions to include handheld personal communications devices that are being held and used
(a) as an amateur radio or a citizens band radio or
(b) for official Department of Transportation or traffic incident management services.
This bill has a delayed effective date of January 1, 2021."
You can read current and upcominng amendments to the bill as it passes through Virginia Congressional chambers here. The bill has not yet passed approval.
The bill is inspired by Virginia resident Meredith Spies, whose mother Karen Giles died in a collision with a distracted driver in Chesterfield County in February 2019.
Whether you're checking your GPS, adjusting your Spotify playlist, or ignoring a call, an overwhelming majority of Americans use their phone while driving. A 2017 survey by the National Safety Council found that 90 percent of Americans admit to using their smartphone while behind the wheel. A similar study by driver analytics company Zendrive says that a two-second distraction heightens the risk of car accidents by almost 20 times.
According to insurance company The Zebra, who conducted a survey of young drivers across the United States:
"7% of.. [any drivers on the road] are using [their] cell phones at any given time. Answering a text distracts a driver for approximately five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that's enough time to travel the length of a football field. Texting while driving increases by 400% a driver's time spent with their eyes off the road."
“Drivers are getting the message, but not taking it to heart,” said spokesperson for the Government Highway Association Kara Macek.
Are you among the 90 percent of Americans who admit to using their phone while driving? Would this law change your mind? We want to hear what you think in the comments!