RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Get ready for a major change when it comes to driving in Richmond's city limits. Soon, you won't be able to have your phone in your hands or you'll get a ticket.
City council approved a measure Monday night that toughens the current state law which says you cannot text or email while driving. Come June of 2020, police will be able to pull you over for simply having a phone in your hands. City leaders want to take six months to make sure all drivers know so there’s no excuse.
"I was struck by a distracted driver,” Brad Hughes said.
At Richmond's council meeting Monday, Hughes pleaded for local leaders to act. In 2014, he was a conservator of the peace, working with police officers at crash sites. But that day, he became the victim when a driver hit him.
"I ended up losing both of my legs. All of this could have changed if the driver was just paying attention,” Hughes said.
Now, Richmond is toughening what’s considered illegal for drivers. Right now, it’s illegal in Virginia to text or send an email from your phone while you’re driving. But come June, you can’t even a hold a phone in your hands if you’re behind the wheel in Richmond.
"It's a huge deal,” Police Chief Will Smith said.
He says this will make it easier for police to stop people from driving while distracted, especially since over time technology has improved.
"Now you have the entire internet at your fingertips…The potential for being distracted, the potential for trying to entertain yourself is significant,” he said.
The first time you're pulled over in Richmond with a phone in your hands, you can face a $125 fine. Each time after that, the penalty is $250.
"Since she died, I’ve never used my phone will driving but I see drivers all around me playing with theirs,” Patty Kruszewski said.
She’s pleased by the tougher law since she lost her daughter, Lanie, by a man who was on his phone.
“Her life was cut short by someone who chose to amuse himself while texting as he drove…I appreciate your efforts to make this happen,” she told city leaders.
Any police department in the area can enforce this law if you’re driving in Richmond, which includes RPD, VCU Police, state police and Capitol Police.
Councilwoman Reva Trammel said she wishes other localities will follow Richmond’s lead.
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