“You’re 23 times more likely to crash while driving if you are also texting.” Thus admonishes distraction.gov, a well-wrought and informative site that all drivers in Virginia should familiarize themselves with. If this is the first time you have seen this fact about texting and driving, you will certainly want to continue reading below.
In a previous post we provided you with some helpful texting and driving statistics. Escalating press coverage has corresponded with the escalating seriousness of auto accidents related to distracted driving generally, and texting while driving specifically.
Two cases recently receiving media attention demonstrate the evolution of state attitudes regarding the issue of texting while driving. The earlier case reveals the initial mild treatment of texting and driving, while the later case demonstrates the new seriousness many states are treating this particular offense with.
In a 2009 Ohio case, a 19-year-old was sentenced to 45 days in jail after hitting a man on his morning walk, who later died in the hospital from the wounds and severe head trauma he sustained. Her negligence was the result of texting while driving. However, this was before the statewide ban on cellphone use, which was adopted in 2012.
In 2012, an eighteen year old Massachusetts driver was convicted of motor vehicle homicide by texting, resulting in the loss of his license for 15 years and two years of jail time. Massachusetts outlawed texting and driving in 2010 and has aggressively enforced the law, writing 1,700 tickets last year.
Learn more: distraction.gov has a handy map with summarized cellphone laws.
Increased Cell Phone Use
The Pew Center’s Internet and American Life Project conducted a 2012 survey which revealed that 85% of Americans now own and use cell phones. According to the survey, the most performed activity by cell phone users was taking pictures with their phones; the second most conducted activity was sending and receiving text messages, which accounts for 80%. This number lept from 58% in 2007 to its current high ranking. Thus, at any given moment during the day, 800,000 motorists are using cellphones while driving.
Texting and Driving in Virginia
Currently all drivers are banned from texting and driving in Virginia. Bus drivers are banned from all cell phone use in general. Novice drivers, those under the age of 18, are also banned from cell phone use.
Now that you know when it is not acceptable to text while driving, it’s worth knowing if there are any times when you might be able to text and drive.
The Virginia Legislature advises of certain operators and emergency circumstances in which it is permissible to text:
“B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
1. The operator of any emergency vehicle;
2. An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped;
3. The use of factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning systems (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system; or
4. Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.”
So, can you text at a red light? No, do not text while stopped at a red light. Likewise, do not text while stopped at a stop sign. Send the text from the parking lot if you have too, before you leave. Using your cell phone in an emergency situation is currently permitted, but be sure using your cell phone doesn’t create another emergency situation.