Northam amends hands-free driving bill, calls on full ban on handheld devices

Northam amends hands-free driving bill, calls on full ban on handheld devices

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Gov. Ralph Northam amended a hands-free driving bill Tuesday that would “combat distracted driving” across the Commonwealth.

“Rarely do policy makers get such a clear cut opportunity to save lives. This is one of those times,” said Northam during a press conference Tuesday. “There is no scenario, I repeat no scenario when looking at your phone is worth risking your life, those with you, those in other autos, those riding bikes and also pedestrians. No excuse.”

In its current form, the bill prohibits drivers from holding a communications device in highway work zones.

“Using a phone while driving not only takes your eyes off the road it distracts your mind as well, and that can be just as dangerous,” said Northam.

The governor’s proposed amendments would expand the legislation statewide, banning hand-held devices for all drivers.

“Too many families have lost loved ones as a result of a driver paying more attention to their phone than to their surroundings," Northam said. "This bill, as amended, will be a significant step forward in promoting traffic safety across the Commonwealth.”

A bill during the General Assembly session calling on a full ban of handheld devices while driving failed in the final days.

It was poised to pass the Senate when an apparently innocent amendment was tacked on to specify the exact appendage lawmakers were hoping to target, inserting the words “in his hand” before the word “hold.”

“I think we’re very disappointed,” Janet Brooking, executive director of DRIVE SMART Virginia, a nonprofit group that promotes traffic safety, said after that bill failed. “We had been working very hard to make sure the bills advanced.”

The General Assembly will have to address Northam’s amendments on April 3, according to the Associated Press.

Hands-free driving bill fails in Virginia

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