RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Drivers should not be using their phones behind the wheel but unfortunately, it still happens.
Starting in 2021, there will be a new law to enforce that rule: it will be illegal to hold a phone while driving in Virginia.
That means no scrolling social media, playing a game, checking your email or sending texts while driving or operating a car. State officials say making it illegal and enforceable is a necessary step toward reducing deaths on the road.
“If you’re looking down at your phone, texting or checking an email, you’re not looking at the road and that can go so far, so badly, so fast,” said Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.
Not looking at your phone while driving may seem like a no-brainer, but people still do it. According to Virginia Tech, 80% of all crashes involve driver inattention.
“Last year, believe it or not, there were more than 23,000 — I’ll repeat that, 23,000 — crashes in Virginia that were caused by distracted driving, and 120 of those individuals lost their lives,” Northam said.
The General Assembly passed the new legislation earlier this year to bring the numbers down.
Those numbers include Meredith Spies’ mother.
“For everyone who thinks this can’t happen to them or they’re immune, I want to say it’s not true,” said Spies, whose mother was killed by a distracted driver in February of 2019.
“I honestly believe that if this legislation had been passed in years previous, she would still be here today,” Spies said.
Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran says distracted driving impacts everyone, including law enforcement and Virginia Department of Transportation workers.
“There’s no question that distracted driving has cost too many lives on Virginia’s highways, injured dozens and caused countless traffic deaths,” said Moran.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police and “DRIVE SMART Virginia“ created training materials for law enforcement agencies across the state.
You can still talk on the phone, but you cannot hold your phone. If you’re caught, the first offense will set you back $125. You can learn more here.