HENRICO Co., Va. (WWBT) - On Jan. 1, 2021, if you’re caught with a cell phone or other device in your hands while driving, you could face a hefty fine.
“We all know distracted driving is dangerous,” said a member with the Hanover County Sheriff’s Office. “Last year it resulted in nearly 35,000 crashes.”
That statistic is why local law enforcement pushed out a PSA Friday to alert the public about the new hands-free law going into effect on Jan. 1.
“On that day, it will be illegal to hold a mobile device while driving,” said a Chesterfield County Police officer.
With the holidays around the corner, officers suggested getting some stocking stuffer gifts to make sure you won’t get in trouble.
“There are sockets that fit in your vent, as well as window mounts that hold your cell phone device, that way it just keeps the device out of your hands so you can focus on driving,” said Lt. Matt Pecka with Henrico County Police.
While the hand-free law technically went into effect July 1 of 2020, the enforcement was deferred to allow for public education. Pecka believes the educational efforts are working, but he does admit the issue is still present.
“We’ve all probably seen it driving on the roads where someone doesn’t have their hands on the wheel, cars are swerving, and that actually prompts quite a few calls to the 911 center for distracted driving,” he said.
If you are pulled over for holding a cell phone in your hands, officers say to act in the same way you would for any other traffic stop. Additionally, you will not be asked to hand that device over, but you could face a fine of $125 for the first offense, and then $250 for every additional offense.
“Officers will have the discretion on enforcement, as well as for their education,” Pecka said.
In December, the Richmond City Council passed its own hands-free law, which went into effect in June.
From July to October, one ticket has been written, but an RPD spokeswoman said many warnings have been issued.
“The approach in these first few months has been more focused on education, instead of enforcement,” she added.
Here are some tips AAA recommends to avoid distractions while driving:
- Prepare for your drive. Set vehicle systems like GPS, seats, mirrors, climate controls and sound systems before hitting the road. Decide on your route and check traffic conditions ahead of time. And please, finish dressing and personal grooming at home – before you get on the road.
- Don’t Drive Intoxicated. Don’t Drive Intexticated. The consequences of alcohol-impaired driving and texting while driving could be the same: Put aside electronic distractions and never use text messaging, email, video games or internet functions, including those built into the vehicle, while driving. Stow your smartphone away, turn it to airplane mode, or activate call/text blocking features.
- Stay focused. Do not let anything divert your attention. Be sure to actively scan the road, use your mirrors, and watch out for pedestrians and cyclists. If you have passengers, enlist their help as a “designated texter.” Ask them to answer your calls, respond to texts and program the navigation.
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