Governor Northam signs bill that bans use of hand-held devices while driving in Virginia

Governor Northam signs bill that bans use of hand-held devices while driving in Virginia
A driver uses a phone while behind the wheel of a car. (Source: Damir Kopezhanov)

AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) — On Wednesday Governor Northam held a ceremonial signing of a new law that will hopefully make the roads safer.

Since 2009, it’s been against the law to text and drive. With this new law in place, it will be illegal to have any kind of communications device in your hand while you’re driving, including talking on the phone.

“I think it’s a good idea. I think it should have been done a long time ago. I mean, there so many people getting in accidents because of this stupid stuff,” Harry Kevinalfree said.

In the past year, there have been 44 crashes across the valley involving cell phones, 18 of those resulting in an injury.

Virginia State Police said they hope this new law will make the roads safer.

“You can tell someone is not paying any attention. They swerve and things like that, so I think that is a good a thing, I think it should be a worldwide law,” Jacquline Morgan said.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports 80% of all crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds of the crash.

“I’ve had some kind of ear device or something. I just don’t like doing it because you know that split second something can happen,” Morgan said.

The new ban on handheld devices while driving technically became a law on July 1, but it won’t actually be enacted until January 1, 2021.

The General Assembly required a six-month delay to give people time to learn the new law.

Police say they won't pull anyone over for violating the law until January.

“Anybody with common sense knows you can’t be playing with a phone and be driving down the doggone road and paying attention what you’re doing. I mean it’s just common sense,” Kevinalfree said.

Drivers we spoke with Wednesday said they agree being on the phone is dangerous, but think the new law could be even more strict.

“If you don’t have your two hands on the wheel, whether your combing your hair, eating lunch, or talking on the phone, you get a fine, and I think that’s a good law. It’s a simple law, two hands on the wheel,” Gary Barbieri said.

If you are caught with a phone in your hand while driving starting January 2021, you could face a $125 fine for your first offense and a $250 fine for any subsequent offense.

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