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Bill would make it easier for Va. police to stop distracted drivers

Thursday - 1/12/2012, 1:48pm  ET

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''Any time you're using a handheld device that causes you to not give full-time attention to your driving, that would be an offense,'' says Delegate Dave Albo, R-Fairfax. (WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

WASHINGTON -- A startling statistic on traffic deaths in Virginia has reinvigorated calls for stricter texting-while-driving laws in that commonwealth.

The Old Dominion recorded 250 more traffic deaths than Maryland in 2011, which the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety blame on what it says is the state's lax enforcement of distracted drivers.

One state politician is pushing for stricter regulations that would give police more options to pull over drivers they believe aren't paying attention to the road.

"The problem is that it's hard for a police officer to see whether you're texting, or making a phone call, or doing GPS or something else," says Delegate Dave Albo, R-Fairfax. Currently, it is illegal to text while driving in Virginia.

Albo's bill would allow police to pull over drivers if they believe the driver is diverting attention from the road to a handheld device for any reason.

"Any time you're using a handheld device that causes you to not give full-time attention to your driving, that would be an offense," he says.

Albo is also pushing for a law mandating ignition locks for first-time drunk drivers with a blood alcohol level above .15.

The AHAS has called also for regulations allowing police to pull over drivers who violate seat belt laws. Albo says that's not likely to happen.

WTOP's Hank Silverberg contributed to this report. Follow Hank and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)