Texting-While-Driving Law Confuses Virginians - 8NEWS - WRIC | News Where You Live

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Texting-While-Driving Law Confuses Virginians

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RICHMOND (WRIC)—Confusion over Virginia's texting-while-driving law is the reason only just over 300 people have been cited since the new law took effect in July.

The head of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police says it's not just texting that drivers can get in trouble for.

"It really isn't just a texting law," said Diana Schrad, the executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police. "It's about using your smartphone, using any personal communication device while you're driving that would distract you from the road."

Police officers in Chesterfield County have given out just 14 tickets since July. The current language of the law—which identifies communicating with another person as the violation—may be the reason so few have been ticketed. Police look for obvious signs of distracted driving, like hands being taken off the wheel or looking down at a cell phone, but what happens if a driver is conducting a Google search? Does that count as texting?

"We're really not sure, because that is, in fact, entering data, entering text or numbers into your phone," Schrad said. "Now, is that a personal communication? Maybe not."

Schrad is working with the Office of the Attorney General to clarify the law before training more police departments. Another reason a low number of texting-while-driving tickets have been given out is that some drivers are being ticketed for reckless driving instead.

"You see people driving up the road, they're running off the shoulder of the road, you think they might be a drunk driver, but, in fact, they're actually texting while they're driving that vehicle," said Sgt. Thomas Molnar of the Virginia State Police. "So, they could be also charged with just reckless driving instead of texting while driving."

Regardless of the new law's confusing language, it is clear that police want drivers off their phones altogether. It may not be the Office of the Attorney General that ends up clarifying the law; it could come down to a court case and a judge's ruling.


Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond

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