Virginia Distracted Driving Summitt

September 15, 2014

Richmond, Va. – On Monday, approximately 200 safety advocates met for the Virginia Distracted Driving Summit at The Westin Richmond in Henrico.

In attendance was actor Charlie Bewley, best known for his role as Demetri in the Twilight Saga films. Bewley related his own personal brush with the dangers of texting while driving; the English actor narrowly avoided being struck by a distracted driver, who was texting on a mobile phone.

Bewley commended the safety officials in attendance while urging advocates to increase awareness through social media and other related platforms that appeal to the younger generation.

National Transportation Safety Board member Robert L. Sumwalt also spoke to attendees, reiterating the Board’s standing recommendation to state legislatures to ban the nonemergency use of personal electronic devices by all drivers.

VCU Medical Center nurse practitioner Kathy Richio emphasized the devastating consequences of distracted driving. Richio recalled an accident on Chippenham Parkway, where a driver, while texting, collided head-on with an oncoming vehicle. Both the distracted driver and her passenger were killed on impact, and the driver of the other vehicle was left permenantly disabled.

“The man they hit broke everything in his body,” said Richio. “He lost his job in the end. He lost his home. It took away everything from him, everything. It was horrifying.”

According to the Drive Smart Virginia highway safety organization, driver distraction contributes in some way to 80 percent of all crashes. Individuals who are injured by a distracted driver

In Virginia, texting is banned for all drivers and is considered a primary offense, which means police officers can pull drivers over for suspected texting while driving.

Specifically, it is unlawful to drive while using any kind of handheld, personal communications device to manually enter text as a means communicating or read any email or text message transmitted by or stored within the device.

Drivers pulled over in Virginia for texting may be fined $125.00 for the first offense, and $250.00 for subsequent offenses.

At the end of February 2013, the General Assembly of Virginia put into effect strict laws regarding the use of handheld personal communication devices while driving. With recent drastic increases in accidents related to texting while driving, legislation has amended and reenacted portions of the Code of Virginia to propose harsh penalties for those that commit these offenses.

According to Virginia’s Legislative Information System the summary of the new bill is as follows:

Driving while texting; primary offense; increased penalties. Provides that driving while texting is a traffic infraction punishable, for a first offense, by a fine of $250 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $500. The current penalties are $20 for a first offense and $50 for a second or subsequent offense. The bill also increases the punishment of any person convicted of reckless driving to include a $500 mandatory minimum fine if the person was texting at the time of the reckless driving offense. The bill also changes the offense from a secondary offense (one that can only be charged when the offender is stopped for another, separate offense) to a primary offense.