A bill seeking to ban text-messaging while driving in the state of Virginia has won an endorsement from the Senate Transportation Committee and is now headed for the full Senate for a vote.
Delegate John Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake) sponsored House Bill 1876. Cosgrove called texting while driving “a dangerous and irresponsible practice” which results in traffic accidents.
On February 19, the Senate Transportation Committee voted 12-3 in favor of the measure.
The proposal would place a ban on driving “while using any handheld personal communications device to manually enter multiple letters or text or to read a text message.” The bill would provide exceptions for the use of GPS devices and wireless telecommunications device to report an emergency.
Drivers in violation of the ban would face fines of $20 for the first offense and $50 for every subsequent violation.
Republican Senators Ken Cuccinelli (Fairfax), Ryan McDougle (Mechanicsville), and Ralph Smith (Roanoke) opposed the bill, saying it could prevent police officers from citing drivers for more serious offenses such as reckless driving.
On February 10, the House passed the bill by a vote of 88-10.
Delegate John O’Bannon (R-Henrico), who voted in favor of the bill, called it “common sense.” He said it falls under the same category of other distractions that cause accidents, such as a woman applying makeup or a man shaving.
Others believe the proposal to be unnecessary because existing laws require drivers to pay attention behind the wheel.
Bob Barr, the 2008 presidential nominee from the Libertarian Party, said he would be in opposition because it would be “an unnecessary restriction on the rights of the citizenry” and that if a driver causes an accident “they already can and should be found liable.”
According to an AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study, one out of every seven drivers admitted to texting while driving. The study, which was released in December, concluded that using a cell phone while driving quadruples the risk of being involved in a car accident.
Currently, seven states and Washington, D.C. have bans in place on text-messaging while driving.