Texting and Driving Ban Raises Questions about Enforcement
Drivers beware - texting while driving is going to cost you. The ban on texting and driving is in effect Monday, and that means just one text could have you in trouble with the law. Now, we're getting a better idea of how police plan to enforce the new law.
The law used to qualify texting and driving as a secondary offense, meaning officers had to have another reason to pull a driver over. Now, all an officer has to see is a driver using the phone while behind the wheel and the sirens go off.
The new law bans texting and emailing while driving - but it doesn't ban using a cellphone altogether.
"There's some questions as to whether or not the law enforcement officer, how will he or she know whether or not you are texting or not and those are the things that will have to bear out in the first few cases as it goes through," said Lt. Ronnie Roberts of the Charlottesville Police Department.
Ticket fines have also gone up. It used to cost $20 for a first offense texting and driving ticket. Now, it will cost you $125. A second offense ticket will cost you $250.
Roberts says officers will look for the similar signs of a drunk driver - like swerving or standing still at a green light.
"They pull up to a light and will be texting, stopping in a line of traffic, while the light changes the vehicles that are in front proceed through and they continue to sit there and communicate on the smartphone," said Roberts.
Even though it's not against the law to check Facebook or use GPS on a cellphone - police say it might still get a driver in trouble.
"It still leads to the probability of being stopped by a law enforcement officer because we're not going to know if you're texting or not," said Roberts.
Police say they may ask a driver to hand the phone over when pulled over to check if they were sending texts, but it's up to the driver if they want to or not.
Roberts says if a driver has nothing to hide - they shouldn't mind handing the cellphone over for proof.
Virginia is one of 41 states that ban texting while driving for all drivers, but Virginia's law specifically targets texting and not all hand-held usage.
According to the governor's highway safety association, a ban on all hand-held cellphone use while driving is in effect for 11 states and Washington, D.C. So you'll want to stash your phone away before driving through West Virginia, Maryland, or Washington, D.C.
For the breakdown of the law state by state, click here.
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