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Va. police want drivers to put the phone away or risk a ticket

AAA finds that texting and other cellphone use are major contributors to fatal teen crashes. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON — “Put the phone down” is the message Virginia State and Fairfax County police are trying to convey to drivers.

Virginia State Police Capt. James de Ford said that troopers will issue citations to anyone they see texting while driving.

In Fairfax County, more than 13,000 tickets have been issued for failing to pay full time and attention, which includes texting while driving, said Cmdr. Bob Blakley. The cost of this citation starts at $97.

Virginia Deputy Secretary of Transportation Grindly Johnson said that a leading cause of accidents in this region is distracted driving caused by cellphone usage. She joined express lanes operator Transurban and local police in urging people to put the phone down while driving.

In D.C. a three-strikes bill came up for vote in October that would result in drivers losing their licenses for a period of time and a $200 fine if they are caught using a handheld device or texting behind the wheel three times in 18 months.

Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that more than two in three drivers report talking on their cellphones while driving in the past month; nearly one in three admits to typing or sending a text message or email while driving in the past month; and more than two in five report reading a text message or email in the past month.

AAA Mid-Atlantic said that distracted driving can be a very deadly behavior and is the cause of 16 percent of fatal crashes.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

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