Legislation to strengthen enforcement and increase penalties for texting while driving continues to advance in the General Assembly.
The Senate Courts of Justice Committee this morning endorsed legislation that would allow police to stop drivers for using a “handheld personal communications device” to send or view text messages and emails.
Senate Bill 1222, like an identical measure moving through the House of Delegates, would impose a $250 fine for a first offense of texting while driving and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses. The legislation also would impose a $500 mandatory minimum fine for someone convicted of reckless driving while texting.
Virginia’s existing law treats texting while driving as a secondary offense, meaning police must have cause to stop a driver for a separate offense before issuing a citation for texting. And even if a driver is found guilty of texting, a first offense carries a fine of just $20 and subsequent offenses carry fines of $50.
The Senate committee advanced the bill by a 9-6 vote, sending it the full Senate. The House Courts of Justice committee unanimously endorsed its version of the bill on Friday.
– Michael Sluss