New Virginia law bans holding a cellphone while driving

By Zach Armstrong

PETERSBURG, Va -- Beginning Jan. 1 of 2021, Virginia law will prohibit people from holding a cellphone while driving, classifying it as a primary offense meaning police can pull over drivers over the action.

First-time offences will cost a fine of $125 while additional offenses while cost a fine of $250. Prior to 2021, Virginia law already prohibited texting and emailing while driving but phones weren’t otherwise restricted except in highway work zones.

Although current law already prohibits typing on phones while driving, police have had difficulty enforcing it because defense attorneys could argue people could be scrolling through social media or conducting a video call and still be complying with the law.

According to Roanoke County Police Chief Howard Hall who spoke to the Martinsville Bulletin, it’s rare that officers pulled someone over for phone use because it’s hard to get a clear view of the activity. The issue often would come up only when a major crash occurred and search warrants were issued for cell phones.

The new law will become easier to enforce for officers because it focuses on merely holding a cell phone.

The General Assembly delayed enactment of the law for numerous months to educate the public about it and give time for law enforcement to receive training on enforcing the new law without implicit bias.

Drivers are provided with some modern options to avoid holding a cell phone while driving such as buying a mount to place on a vehicle’s dashboard or using a bluetooth system.

“Everyone should be focused on driving,” Hall said. “You can always pull over if something is so important that you need to send a text or make a call.” said Hall to the Martinsville Bulletin.