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Texting While Driving in Virginia § 46.2-1078.1

Since 2009, Virginia has has a “no-texting” law on the books; however, I constantly get questions about what this law does and does not mean.

Virgina Code § 46.2-1078.1. Use of handheld personal communications devices in certain motor vehicles; exceptions; penalty

A. It shall be unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth while using any handheld personal communications device to:

1. Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or

2. Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored in the device nor to any caller identification information.

B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to:

1. The operator of any emergency vehicle;

2. An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped;

3. The use of factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning systems (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system; or

4. Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.

C. No citation for a violation of this section shall be issued unless the officer issuing such citation has cause to stop or arrest the driver of such motor vehicle for the violation of some other provision of this Code or local ordinance relating to the operation, ownership, or maintenance of a motor vehicle or any criminal statute.

D. A violation of any provision of this section shall constitute a traffic infraction punishable, for a first offense, by a fine of $20 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $50….”

This law makes it illegal to enter in letters or texts or read emails on any personal communication device. However, it does not apply to all electronic devices, only electronic communication devices. (ipods, ipads, and kindles may not apply). It also does not apply when the vehicle is legally stopped.

Also, this law is very weak because it makes texting while driving a secondary offense. A secondary offense means that an officer is not allowed to pull a person over for texting while driving. The officer can only ticket you for texting while driving if they pull you over for another offense.

However, an officer can pull you over and ticket you for reckless driving or failure to pay full time and attention, or improper lane change if the texting while driving is affecting you ability to drive you car properly. And of course, if you injure or kill someone in a car accident while texting you may be facing serious criminal and/or civil consequences.

Luke J. Nichols

Spectrum Legal Defense

About Luke Nichols

Luke Nichols practices almost exclusively traffic law in Northern Virginia. His primary practice areas include reckless driving, speeding, DUI/DWI, refusal, hit-and-run, driving on a suspended license, and driving on a revoked license. Mr. Nichols has represented hundreds of Virginia drivers. You can also connect with Luke on Google+
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