On Your Side Investigators: Impact of texting-while-driving ban

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Virginia's new law to get tough on texting and driving may not be having a huge impact. So far, only a few hundred people across the state have been convicted of the new offense. We asked and the Department of Motor Vehicles turned over the latest stats its collected on texting and driving.

The new law makes the action a primary offense, punishable by a $125 ticket. It was put in place in July, and through the first six months, 725 drivers have been convicted.

The majority of those tickets were written in Northern Virginia. 168 violations in Fairfax County. Another 62 in Prince William County. Virginia Beach convicted 71 people for the offense.

In greater Richmond, not many drivers are being nabbed for the dangerous activity. Chesterfield County had the most - 23 convictions. They were followed by 16 each in Henrico and Hanover, 15 people in Richmond and only a handful of people in Dinwiddie, Colonial Heights, Prince George and Petersburg.

A texting driver took the life of 19-year-old Kyle Rowley. His death helped inspire the change in law. "You can equate it to being under the influence of alcohol. It's impaired driving," said Kyle's mother Meryl.

When you compare the 725 convictions so far this year with the with the 54,126 reckless driving convictions in a year's time in 2012, 725 doesn't seem like much.

"For a new law, I would say no. I don't think that's a lot of convictions," said Matt Nelson. He's an experienced Richmond attorney who primarily handles traffic cases. He says his firm has not seen an up tick in calls from people asking about the texting and driving law. "It may be that the law as written on the police officers' prospective is hard to prove," said Nelson.

Under Virginia's law, you are not allowed to text, but you are allowed to dial on your phone and to use the GPS navigation system. "On those occasions, it might be hard for police officers when using your phone to determine if you're actually using your phone to text or to receive an email or to read an email," said Nelson.

Currently, the law is only on pace to catch 1400 Virginians texting and driving, meaning lawmakers may end up revisiting the issue in the future.

AAA lobbied for the change in law. Spokesperson Martha Meade said they are studying the law's impact during this first year. She says AAA recently conducted a survey, and 24% of Virginians reported changing their driving habits because of the texting ban.

Click here to see the number of texting while driving convictions by county:

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