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New driving laws in Virginia starting in July

Steve Igo • May 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM

RICHMOND — New laws

in Virginia taking effect July 1 take a tougher stance on drunken driving and

driving while distracted.

Under current law in Virginia a conviction of

driving while intoxicated (DWI) is not considered a felony unless it is a third

DWI conviction within 10 years. Effective July 1, any DWI conviction will be a

felony if a person has a prior conviction of involuntary manslaughter involving

alcohol, including involuntary manslaughter while boating involving alcohol; DWI

maiming; boating while intoxicated/maiming; and or a DWI third offense or

subsequent conviction.

A DWI felony conviction mandates a minimum fine of

$1,000 and one year in prison.

Also beginning July 1, texting while driving

is a primary offense with increased penalties. Currently texting while driving

is a secondary offense and can only be charged when the offender is stopped for

another, separate offense.

A texting while driving conviction will carry a

$125 fine for the first offense and $250 for second or subsequent offenses.

Current penalties are $20 for a first offense and $50 for a second or subsequent


The new law also increases the punishment of any person convicted of

reckless driving to include a $250 mandatory fine if the person was texting at

the time of a reckless driving offense.

The Virginia Department of Motor

Vehicles reports that more than 20 percent — 28,112 — of all auto crashes in

Virginia last year were attributable to distracted driving. More than 28,000

crashes resulted in 174 fatalities and 16,709 injuries.

Nearly 1,700 crashes

involved drivers using cell phones or texting while operating a motor vehicle,

the DMV said.

"The approaching Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to

remind drivers to focus on the task of driving and not drive impaired or

distracted," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb.

"People are dying and

being seriously injured because of drunk and distracted driving. These offenses

put not only the driver and their family in danger, but this risky behavior also

jeopardizes everyone else traveling on the roadways."

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