MGN online graphic
RICHMOND -- Texting while driving can and, for at least 328 drivers, has led to an interesting conversation with a Virginia state trooper and ultimately, a judge.
Since texting while driving became a primary offense in the commonwealth, Virginia state troopers have scribbled their own hand-written text script on a traffic citation and court summons to 328 drivers from when the law took effect on July 1 through just Sept. 28, the Virginia State Police has reported.
During the 2013 Virginia General Assembly legislators amended state code to make texting while driving a primary offense. A violation is a traffic infraction punishable, for the first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, $250.
The law applies to the operator of a passenger vehicle in motion and exempts law enforcement and other first responders.
Since the law went into effect, the VSP said state troopers have been enforcing it just like any other primary offense. The trooper must observe the illegal conduct of a vehicle's operator, providing the trooper with reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop.
Further investigation determines what, if any, offense or offenses the driver will be cited. Troopers have the discretion to warn, issue a summons or flat out arrest a violator.
The 328 citations only through the end of September are just the tip of the texting iceberg, warns VSP Superintendent Col. W. Steven Flaherty.
"Keep in mind that this data does not provide an exact account of the problem that exists concerning texting while driving on Virginia's highways. Depending on the observation of the investigating trooper, drivers can also be cited for reckless driving and, therefore, not included as a texting while driving violation," Flaherty said.
"Regardless, texting while driving puts at risk the driver, passengers and every other motorist, motorcyclist, pedestrian and bicyclist sharing the roadway with that inattentive driver."
Legislators also added to Virginia's driving laws the texting while driving prohibition to anyone driving a commercial vehicle, or a vehicle used to transport between nine and 15 passengers. The law does permit texting "when necessary to communicate with law enforcement or other emergency services."
State law also prohibits the use of any wireless telecommunications devices by persons driving school buses.