TRAFFIC ALERT In Prince George’s County, all lanes of northbound Route 5/Branch Ave. are blocked at Surratts Road because of a crash.

New Virginia law cracks down on texting while driving

WASHINGTON – A crackdown is coming on texting while driving in Virginia.

Starting July 1 in the commonwealth, drivers who text and drive can be pulled over even if they’re doing nothing else wrong. The practice previously had been a secondary offense in Virginia, meaning drivers could only be cited for it if they’d been pulled over for another offense first.

Texting while driving already is illegal in D.C. and Maryland. In October, Maryland authorities also will begin stopping drivers for talking on a cellphone without a hands-free device, as D.C. officials already can do.

“It’s a new day in Virginia,” says Martha Mitchell Meade, a spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The new Virginia law bans not just sending a text while driving, but reading texts and writing and reading emails as well.

A first offense carries a $125 fine, with subsequent offenses bringing a $250 fine.

Drivers will still be able to use their hands to make phone calls and can use a pbone’s GPS to get directions.

The law kicks in just before July 4. AAA predicts nearly 970,000 Virginians will hit the roads for the holiday.

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