One of the 812 bills that this year’s General Assembly sent to Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was House Bill 1907. This proposed legislation would toughen the sanctions on those cited for texting while driving. A key provision changes the violation from a secondary offense to a primary one. Since texting while driving is currently a secondary offense, law enforcement cannot pull a motorist over for texting alone. Bill 1907 would upgrade the offense to “primary” status.
Gov. McDonnell’s office suggests that he concurs with that provision. However, he wants to see changes elsewhere in the bill. The Governor feels that the proposed legislation as it now stands specifies penalties for texting that don’t align well with sanctions on DUI and reckless driving offenses. Therefore, he is requesting that the General Assembly amend the bill when it reconvenes on April 3rd.
A new bill before the Virginia legislature (Bill 1907) would radically increases fines for texting while driving.
As the law stands now, an initial texting offense generates a $20 fine and subsequent offenses result in $50 fines for each.
In the current version of House Bill 1907, a first offense would generate a $250 fine. Second and subsequent violations would double that to $500 per occurrence. Gov. McConnell wants to see fines at levels that “bring them more in line” with the fines that attach to other moving violations, according to his office. Apparently, he feels that increasing those amounts by 1250% and 1000% respectively is a bit steep.
Bill 1907 also links texting and reckless driving. A motorist convicted of a reckless driving offense would face a mandatory minimum fine of $500 if he/she was texting at the time the reckless driving offense was committed.
There has been active debate in the state as to whether new laws specifically addressing texting are even necessary. The Governor himself staked out his position months ago when he asserted that current laws pertaining to both aggressive driving and reckless already cover a host of different behaviors. Included among them is texting while driving. His position has consistently been that these so-called “blanket” laws, properly enforced, will successfully curb the practice.
For those that have been directly impacted by a driver distracted by texting, this is a true “hot button” issue. Simultaneously, others assert that the idea of continually creating new laws for ever more specific conduct is a slippery slope that increasingly entangles citizens, law enforcement, and the courts in unnecessary legal complexities.
Thanks to the Governor’s amendment request, the next move regarding the “texting” bill is now up to the General Assembly.
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