What are the New Texting and Driving Laws in Virginia?
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately 400 hundred fatal crashes result from texting while driving. Worse, distracted driving caused 3,142 deaths in 2020. Forty-eight states have banned texting while driving, but only five actively enforce the ban. This includes Virginia, which recently passed new laws enforcing the ban on texting while driving. Using your phone while driving can have severe consequences. Here’s what you need to know about the new changes.
What are the New Texting and Driving Laws in Virginia?
In 2021, Virginia introduced legislation making it illegal to hold a cell phone when operating a motor vehicle. Drivers should use hands-free devices that keep their phones out of their hands while driving. While you can still take phone calls through a hands-free device, you will be pulled over if caught holding your phone.
If You Are Stopped for Texting and Driving in Virginia, is it Just a Ticket?
You may be unfamiliar with Virginia’s new distracted driving laws, so you want to understand what will happen if caught. If it is your first offense for texting and driving, you will receive a $125 fine. A repeat offender will receive a $250 fine.
If You’re Stopped for Texting and Driving in Virginia, Will You Have to Go to Court?
In some states, you must appear in court if caught texting and driving, but that is not the case in Virginia. Since the state classifies texting while driving as a pre-payable offense, you can pay your fines to avoid going to court.
Should You Hire a Lawyer if You’re Pulled Over for Texting and Driving?
There are instances when you should consider hiring a lawyer if you’re stopped for texting and driving. If an officer issues you a citation, an experienced traffic attorney can review your case to help you avoid additional penalties. Additionally, they will know your rights and help you build a solid case if necessary. One of the best reasons for hiring an attorney in these situations is to help prevent you from getting points on your driving record.
Will Your Insurance Rate Increase if You Get a Ticket for Texting and Driving?
If you do receive a ticket for texting or any other form of distracted driving, there is a chance your insurance rates can increase. The factors that affect this depend on your insurance company. The insurance company can look at texting-and-driving tickets like speeding infractions. The best thing to do if you have received a ticket for texting and driving is to ask your insurance agent questions about what can happen in this situation.
Will You Lose Your License for Texting While Driving?
While improper use of your phone while driving in Virginia will result in fines and points on your license, you won’t necessarily lose your license for texting and driving. It is important to note that you earn three points each time you’re pulled over for texting and driving. As an adult driver in Virginia, you must be caught six times within 12 months to have your driver’s license suspended. If this were to happen, your driver’s license would be suspended for 90 days. You would also have to complete an individual driver improvement course that you pay for out of pocket before your license can be reinstated.
Remember that texting and driving can cause reckless driving, which could be why you are stopped. Reckless driving comes with six points on your license. Combining the points from these two offenses is nine total points. Your license could be suspended if this is a repeat offense. One last thing to remember is that if you text and drive in a work zone, the penalties can be much more significant, adding even more points to your license.
If You’re at a Stoplight, Does it Count as Texting and Driving?
Virginia’s texting and driving laws are broad; it’s understandable if you have questions about texting at a red light. The law does state that drivers are prohibited from reading or sending text messages while driving. Technically, you are stopped at a red light, so you shouldn’t be given a ticket. However, sitting at a red light could still be labeled as driving. It would be up to the discretion of the officer who stops you. To avoid being wrongfully accused of texting and driving, it would be a good idea not to have your phone in your hand at a stoplight.
Can You Fight a Ticket for Texting and Driving?
In the event you are cited for distracted driving, you do have the option to fight the ticket. The best way to combat this is by going to court and claiming your innocence. When you are stopped, the police will give you a copy of your citation, and all the information on what to do if you want to fight the infraction will be on the citation. You want to make sure you carefully read this information because you have to plead not guilty to the traffic violation within a specific time frame. Virginia also requires you to show up in court to plead not guilty. Your summons will have the date and time you must appear before the judge
Preparing For Your Court Date to Fight a Texting and Driving Ticket
Consulting with an attorney about your ticket is a good idea. While the threat of going to jail is something you won’t have to worry about for this type of infraction, finding affordable representation is important. Make a note of your hearing date and make sure you’ll be available on that date. If something happens, and you can’t make your court date, you may be able to change it, but it can be challenging to do so. Many traffic lawyers will provide you with a free case review, which can help you understand your rights and chances of winning in trial. During your trial, the judge you appear before will review your case. A few factors the judge may look at are if you have any previous infractions for the same offense, how much of a danger your actions posed to other drivers, and if you are willing to attend a driver improvement course. Lastly, your interaction with the officer who stopped you could come into the review.
Knowing these things before you go to trial can make a difference.
Ways to Avoid Texting and Driving
There are ways to altogether avoid being ticketed for distracted driving. The easiest way is to put your phone out of reach. Maybe you place it in the backseat or your glove box while driving. Another way to avoid illegally using a phone is to be lawfully parked or stopped to answer the phone or send a text message. If you are in a hurry, this would slow you down. Yet, if you were to get pulled over for using your phone, that would slow you down even more.
Making a pact with family and friends about not texting and driving is another easy way to avoid a distracted driving ticket. Also, hand-free devices such as a car mount, a citizens’ band radio, or your phone’s assistant can help make hands-free driving much more doable.
Distracted Driving is Dangerous
Virginia enacted these new distracted driving laws to prevent car accidents and fatalities. Text messages or phone calls may be necessary to you, but not at the risk of losing your life or taking another’s. Simply put, don’t text and drive. Leave your personal communications device out of your hands while you operate a motor vehicle. If you’ve recently been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, we can help. Our law firm has helped many drivers recover from accidents caused by drivers who were texting and driving. Reach out to us today for a free consultation to get the compensation you deserve.