Several bills before the Virginia General Assembly are seeking to ban text-messaging and the use of cell phones and other wireless devices while driving in Virginia.
The District of Columbia and five other states currently have such bans in place for drivers.
Senator Patricia S. Ticer (D-Alexandria) is in support of banning all cell phones, including hands-free devices such as Bluetooth headsets.
Ticer said she believes it is “common sense” that any distractions from cell phones are bad, believing text messaging distractions to be doubly bad.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia currently have bans on the use of cell phones in place for novice drivers (those under 18 or who still have learner’s permits), but no states currently have bans for hands-free devices in place.
There are bills in the House of Delegates proposing a ban on cell phones providing an exception of wireless devices sponsored by Delegates Algie T. Howell (D-Norfolk) and Robert “Bobby” Mathieson (D-Virginia Beach).
Bills from Senator Janet D. Howell (D-Reston), Delegate John A. Cosgrove (R-Chesapeake), and Delegate James "Jim" M. Scott (D-Merrifield) seek to outlaw the use of text messaging only.
Virginia would be the eighth state, along with Washington D.C., to have text messaging banned for all drivers.
Senator Harry B. Blevins (R-Chesapeake) has sponsored another restrictive bill in the Senate that would allow for hands-free devices to be used. Blevins said that “distracted driving” is one of the major contributors to accidents and fatalities. He said that data shows that cell-phone usage, including text-messaging, is the leading cause of accidents, even more than driving under the influence.
According to Blevins, his bill has the support of the Virginia State Police, AAA, the insurance industry, and Drive Smart Virginia.
Studies show a link between the usage of cell-phones and text-messaging and traffic accidents. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute conducted a study that discovered that nearly 80 percent of all crashes occur because of driver distraction, the main form being hand-held wireless devices. An estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that a driver’s chances of getting in an accident are increased by 300 percent by cell phone use.According to a study by the University of Utah, distractions from cell-phone usage delays the response time of a driver by the same amount as having a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent, the amount where a DUI is issued.