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Cracking Down on Texting While Driving

Bill would make it a primary offense rather than a secondary offense.

Texting while driving is currently a secondary offense in Virginia, meaning drivers can be ticketed for texting at the wheel only if pulled over for another violation.

Texting while driving is currently a secondary offense in Virginia, meaning drivers can be ticketed for texting at the wheel only if pulled over for another violation. Flikr photo by mrJasonWeaver http://www.flickr.com/photos/indyplanets/

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Sen. George Barker (D-39)

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Barker on Senate Bill 219

Although he hasn’t been reading them while driving, state Sen. George Barker (D-39) has been receiving a flood of emails about distracted driving. Increasingly, Virginia drivers are concerned that motorists are texting or receiving emails while behind the wheel. As a result, Barker has introduced legislation that would make it a primary offense. It’s already a second offense, meaning you can be ticketed for texting at the wheel only if pulled over for another violation.

“People repeatedly tell me about experiences they’ve had driving down the road and seeing somebody who appears to be texting and having to take evasive maneuvers to avoid being hit by them,” said Barker. “What the studies have shown is that the percentage of people who are texting while driving is increasing and that the impact upon accidents and fatalities is 23 times higher than someone who is not texting.”

The bill passed the Virginia Senate this week on a vote of 28 to 12. It will now head to the House of Delegates after crossover, which is scheduled for next week. Although nobody spoke against the effort on the Senate floor, Barker said that he has heard some opposition to the bill.

“Some individuals have concerns about allowing a police officer to pull over someone that they suspect is texting while driving,” he said. “Some people say they don’t want to give police that power because from their perspective they feel that the police officer cannot know for certain that’s what they are doing,” he said. “I don’t think it’s something that would be abused by the police.”

Barker said that other states that have adopted similar laws have not experienced an abuse of discretion by police officers.