New texting and driving bill introduced at the capitol - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

New texting and driving bill introduced at the capitol

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

A new bill looks to hammer down on drivers texting behind the wheel, making doing so a primary offense which could carry penalties like jail time or hefty fines.

Simply put, the only thing you would be able to do on your phone is talk. No texting, no emailing, no video games.

At a basic level, it's a bill meant to keep people safe. Lawmakers say they want to make it less desirable to risk texting while driving with stiffer penalties.

But the new texting and driving bill could also carry a lot of weight in court. Right now, lawmakers say the existing texting and driving law has made it difficult for prosecutors to charge drivers with anything more than a misdemeanor, even for example, if someone was killed as a result of a driver who was texting.

They say it happened in Fairfax.

"Reckless should be an option for judges, it should be an option for law enforcement, and it should be an option for prosecutors," said Delegate Ben Cline, who is co-sponsoring the bill. "In fact, it should be the primary option. "

The State Crime Commission gave the bill its support Wednesday. Delegate Manoli Loupassi  serves on that commission.

"A reckless driving statute already covered this behavior," said Loupassi, referring to the initial intention of the bill. "The problem is we have a massive political problem and in the interim we've got a huge public safety problem."

The bill would make it illegal to do anything more than talk on the phone, but it still has a long way to go before it's official. Some have concerns that the way the bill is written now, could exclude even dialing a phone call.

"I think the decision ultimately we have to make is... do you wanna say that if you just speak on the phone you want it to be all oral?" asked Loupassi of the commission. "It's gotta be oral. You can't touch a phone or a hand held device at all in your car period. You just can't touch it."

Right now, that's not how the bill is written, but it's likely the discussion may come up again and that the bill will see several changes as it makes its way through the General Assembly.

Lawmakers want to make sure if and when another texting while driving bill passes, it is usable in court, with its intended consequences.

If the bill passed, it would make texting while driving a primary offense. A reckless driving charge could carry thousands of dollars in fines or even jail time.

Copyright 2012 WWBT NBC12.  All rights reserved.

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