Bill would toughen Virginia’s texting while driving law

Kathy Stewart,

WASHINGTON – A bill has been proposed that would toughen Virginia’s texting while driving laws.

Del. Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge, is sponsoring a bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense and would increase the fines.

Texting while driving is currently a secondary offense in Virginia, meaning a driver already has to be stopped for another reason in order to be charged. Anderson sponsored a similar bill last year that would have made it a primary offense.

“It didn’t make it out of committee on the presumption that there are already existing laws,” says Anderson.

This bill also raises the fine for to $20 to $250 for a first offense and all subsequent offenses would be raised from $50 to $500.

Anderson says that the law needs to be tougher, especially in light of a deadly incident in Fairfax.

“It was rooted in the fact that the laws are not clear,” he says.

In May 2011, 19 year-old Kyle Rowley was killed in Fairfax County by a driver who was found guilty of texting while driving. The Fairfax judge dismissed the reckless driving charges against the driver, Jason Gage of Alexandria.

The judge made it clear that texting alone is not proof of reckless driving. He cited the state’s texting while driving laws as the reason for his decision.

Anderson is hopeful that it will become a primary offense in Virginia. Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, has a companion bill in the Senate.

Texting while driving is a primary offense in both Maryland and D.C.

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