RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Using a cellphone while operating a vehicle in Richmond is now banned, following a city council meeting Monday.
City council voted unanimously to pass the ban on driving while using a hand-held communications device.
The hands-free driving ordinance, proposed by Mayor Levar Stoney and introduced at the October 14 council meeting, was recently amended. The ordinance is an attempt to curb traffic fatalities and promote pedestrian safety.
“A holistic Vision Zero plan requires engineering, education, and enforcement,” said Mayor Stoney. “Prohibiting the use of a cell phone while driving is necessary to change both ingrained attitudes and dangerous habits.”
According to the Richmond Police Department, distracted drivers have killed or injured 218 people in the city of Richmond so far this year.
The use of a handheld device while driving in Richmond could now result in a $125 fine for first-time offenders. Subsequent offenses will result in a $250 fine.
“It’s just not acceptable to use a cell phone while driving when we know the dire consequences,” said Mayor Stoney in a release. “With this ban, Richmond sends a clear message: whether you’re texting or not, put down the phone, or there will be consequences. I hope the General Assembly will send the same message this year.”
Brad Hughes was struck by a distracted driver and shared his story at Monday’s meeting.
“All of this could’ve been changed if he was paying attention,” Hughes said.
Hughes lost both of his legs after being struck by a driver he says was texting behind the wheel.
“It hurts me every single day when I drive across that bridge knowing that this could’ve been avoided,” Hughes said. “We take walking for granted. I’ve had to learn how to do that all over again.”
A mother of a 24-year-olf woman who was killed by a distracted driver also spoke at the meeting.
“She talked about how much hope she had and what a bright future her daughter had before she was struck down by a distracted driver,” according to councilwoman Kim Gray. “As a mother, that really pulled at my heartstrings. If there’s anything we can do to prevent accidents of that nature, I’m going to do it.”
The ordinance goes into effect in six months. During that time period, the city will have an educational period to make sure all drivers are aware of the new traffic law.
Richmond now joins the city of Hampton and Spotsylvania with this ban.