Texting Awareness Foundation Recommends Harsher Penalties for Texting While Driving

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The Texting Awareness Foundation issues a response to reports of a proposed bill in Virginia that will impose harsher punishments for texting and driving, designating it a primary offense.

The Texting Awareness Foundation issues a response to Virginia’s new texting-while-driving bill, which is currently awaiting a Senate vote.

A recent article on the Tysons Corner Patch website announces that the Virginia Legislature is “vetting a number of bills that would implement harsher texting while driving laws,” in an effort to underline the imperative that can be heard on more and more people’s lips these days: Don’t text and drive!

Last week, the House passed one of these bills (HB 1907), which would increase the fine “for the first texting-while-driving offense to $250 upon conviction, and $500 for each subsequent conviction. The current fine is $20,” reports the article.

This legislation is significant, according to the article, because it establishes texting while driving as a “primary offense” in Virginia -- meaning police officers can stop a driver on the mere suspicion that he or she might be texting behind the wheel. Legislation of this kind is a game-changer, since currently police are only able to issue texting-while-driving fines “if the driver is first pulled over for another violation.”

This aspect of the new legislation is the crux of its design, said the bill’s sponsor, Del. Tom Rust: “As a secondary offense, texting while driving is punishable only if a driver is stopped for committing some other offense with it, like speeding.” Rust continued, "On its own, texting while driving is a reckless behavior, and committing another reckless, dangerous act shouldn’t be required to stop the first."

Rocco Panetta, spokesperson for The Texting Awareness Foundation, responds to the news, applauding the House for their unanimous support of the bill. “This is a huge step forward. Distracted-driving laws are one of the most effective strategies, aside from awareness-raising campaigns, to provide incentives to make drivers operate with caution. We're very hopeful that the Virginia Legislature puts the bill through.”

Panetta adds that of the 39 states that ban text messaging for all drivers, all but four of these treat texting while driving as a primary offense. “We’re glad to see that the straggling states that still categorize this incredibly dangerous, irresponsible behavior as a secondary offense are reassessing their approach,” says Panetta.

The Texting Awareness Foundation is a federally recognized 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that was created to remind and educate people about the dangers of texting and driving. Our goal is to keep the public informed, on a daily basis, of the possible legal and physical (body and property) dangers of texting and driving. Our “Remind You” campaign is designed to reduce accidents simply raising awareness.

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Rocco Panetta
Texting Awareness
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