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What is the New Hands-Free Cellphone Law in Virginia?

December 22, 2020

hands free cell phone law

Most motorists are aware of how dangerous it is to text, talk, or browse the internet while driving, but it is still a rampant problem. Many states have distracted driving laws, which can help, but they are not always easy to enforce. There are hands-free cellphone laws to lessen distracted driving car accidents. The Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) reports that 22 states prohibit drivers from using handheld phones while driving, and all of them are primary enforcement laws. These laws allow law enforcement officers to cite drivers for using cellphones, even when there are no other traffic offenses occurring.

In July 2020, Gov. Ralph Northam in Virginia signed a new bill, and enforcement will start in Jan. 2021. Starting then, using a cellphone while driving will be a primary offense; officers will be permitted to pull over motorists who are seen using their phones while driving. A first offense will consist of a fine of $125, and a second offense, or being caught in a construction zone while on a phone, will cost twice that amount.

Distracted Driving is a Widespread Problem

Drive Smart Virginia is an advocacy group that works to prevent people from texting and driving. According to this group, crashes caused by distracted drivers often go underreported, so the actual statistics could be even higher. In 2018, more than 400,00 people were hurt in distracted driving accidents, according to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration (NTHSA). This organization also claimed that in 2019, distracted driving led to 8.5 percent of all fatal motor vehicle accidents. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that distracted driving kills nine people every day. The CDC’s data on distracted driving in Virginia shows that distracted driving contributes to more than 1,500 accidents and 7 to 10 deaths every year.

It is hard to prove that a driver was on their phone when an accident occurred, though, and this makes data gathering on this subject more difficult. One can easily put down a phone, turn it off, or hide it after getting pulled over. According to the New York Times, drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to end up in car accidents. In 2018, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) also found that handheld phone activities increased the chances of getting into a fatal crash by 66 percent.

The Zebra completed a recent survey of 2,000 Americans with questions designed to analyze distracted driving behaviors. The goal of their 2020 survey was to observe the driving behaviors and attitudes of 2,000 Americans. Out of the participants, about 37 precent agreed that mobile device distractions impaired the ability to drive safely. However, 28.6 percent admitted that they texted, answered work emails, took photographs, and video-chatted while driving.

The Zebra survey also asked respondents if they felt a lot of pressure to answer text messages right when they came in; almost nine percent of those between the ages of 25 to 34 years old believed they must respond to texts right away. Out of the same age group, 7.3 percent felt pressured to immediately answer work texts and emails while they were driving.

How Do Cellphones Distract Drivers?

Driving safely requires consistent mental focus, and anything that takes a driver’s eyes, ears, or hands away from the wheel or road is a distraction. Even petting a dog in the passenger seat is distracting and can lead to a serious, or even deadly, accident.

Cellphone use is particularly dangerous since it distracts in three ways:

  • Visual Distraction: Drivers look away from the road when looking at phones.
  • Cognitive Distraction: Drivers are paying attention to their phones.
  • Manual Distraction: Drivers are using their fingers to text, access websites, choose music, or enter destinations.

The NHTSA explains that engaging in just one text will take a driver’s eyes away from the road for five whole seconds. If that person is driving 55 miles per hour, it is the same as driving across a whole football field, blindfolded. A study by the American Automobile Association (AAA) found that if a driver is also using their hands on the phone, this visual-manual interaction can double the odds of an accident. AAA’s data also showed that the chances of a rear-end accident increased by seven times, and the chances of driving off the road was tripled.

How can I Prevent a Distracted Driving Accident?

To prevent a distracted driving collision, a motorist should keep their phone turned off or put it on Do Not Disturb mode, and place it somewhere that it cannot be reached, like in a handbag in the back seat. Voice commands can be safer, and it is not difficult to use these for directions, to make phone calls, and to text. Some cars have a navigation system that cannot be accessed when the vehicle is moving. Today’s modern vehicles are equipped with in-dash technology, although there can be glitches. Using voice commands can still be distracting since the driver needs to give attention to something else besides driving.

Many drivers may feel that they keep their cellphone use to a minimum when behind the wheel because they only use their phones at red lights. This can still be hazardous since accidents frequently occur at intersections. Looking down at a phone instead of what is around the car could lead to a rear-end accident. At the very least, many drivers neglect to press the gas pedal when the light turns green because they are busy texting.

Trying to adhere to hands-free cellphone laws may be challenging for some drivers. One option for people is to get a smartphone mount. This can be placed close to the driver’s normal line of sight. This can lessen the amount of time the driver’s eyes are taken off the road, and takes away the need to actually hold the phone. Keeping both hands on the wheel can save lives.

What Should I Do if I am Injured by a Distracted Driver?

The new hands-free cellphone law in Virginia will lessen distracted driving car accidents throughout the state; however, it does not eliminate collisions completely. If one is hit by a distracted driver, they should contact a lawyer to discuss their legal options, especially if there is serious property damage or injuries involved. A lawyer will protect the victim’s rights and fight for them to get compensation. It is best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident because there is a time limit to file a personal injury claim.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Advocate for Safe Driving

A driver who uses their cellphone is at higher risk for a car accident, and they can injure themselves and others. If you were hit by a distracted driver, speak to one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we provide legal guidance to injured car accident victims. For more information and a free consultation, complete our online form or call us at 757-352-2237. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we proudly serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

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