Distracted Driving Checkpoint: 3 months after hands-free law takes effect, are drivers obeying the law?

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PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The new year brought a new law in Virginia: put your devices down while you drive or pay the price. Are police cracking down? And is the new law working?

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and DRIVE SMART Virginia is using it as an opportunity to remind drivers to put their phone down.

​”I’ve had a close call or two,” said Chris, a Chesapeake resident, who asked us not to use his last name. “I’ve almost been run over and hit. Someone is eventually going to get hit and end up in the hospital.”

Or worse. That’s a phone call police want to stop making.  

“It’s heartbreaking to have to tell a family member that your loved one has just died in a car crash,” said Lieutenant Chad Hooker with the Suffolk Police Department.

The hands-free law went into effect on January 1. It’s always been against the law to text and drive, but now it’s illegal to hold a phone in your hand while behind the wheel.

If police catch you with a phone in your hand, they can pull you over and a ticket will come with a price tag of $125. If you’re a repeat offender or if you’re holding the phone in a work zone, it will cost you $250.

Three months into the new year, are drivers obeying the law?

“From my own personal observations, I would say yes. I’m seeing more and more people with devices that will hold the phone on the dashboard,” Hooker said. “Obviously, we’re still seeing some people going down the road thumbing through their phones, so we like to stop them and educate them.”

Across Hampton Roads, about 150 summonses have been issued to drivers breaking the hands-free law since January 1. That’s according to numbers from police departments in Hampton Roads and Virginia State Police. We’ve put in request for numbers of citations in Norfolk and Chesapeake. We’re still waiting for those.

Below is a break down on the number of summonses issued by each local police department:

  • State Police: 36
  • Suffolk: 19
  • Portsmouth: 9
  • Chesapeake:
  • Virginia Beach: 86
  • Norfolk: 36
  • Newport News: 6
  • Hampton: 0

Police are warning drivers to put their devices down to avoid paying a fine but more importantly, so you and other drivers stay safe.

“We always think like hey, it would never happen to me, but the sad reality is, we don’t want anyone to take that chance,” Hooker said.

“I think the law is good, but I would actually like to see it being enforced more,” Chris said.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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