RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Starting Tuesday, you could be found guilty of distracted driving if you hold and use a cell phone while behind the wheel in Richmond. The ordinance, which was passed last year by Richmond City Council, goes into effect June 9.
Using a handheld device while driving in Richmond will become a primary offense, meaning an officer can pull you over if they see you using your phone without having to also observe evidence of distracted driving.
“I’m kind of surprised, I thought that was already a law,” city resident Tracy Styron said. “You see some kind of dangerous behavior and wonder why a person’s driving a certain way and when you drive by them, nine times out of 10, they have a cell phone in their hand.”
Holding a device in itself while driving will not be a violation, but holding one while talking into it, using a touchscreen, pressing buttons, viewing a map, listening to music, reading a message or using it in other ways will be a violation, according to the ordinance.
“If it’s in front of you and you’re texting, then you don’t know what’s going on around you, but if you’re just talking on the phone, then I don’t see the harm in it”,” said Mitchell Svetina, who lives right outside of the city.
Maka Rodriguez just moved to Richmond and has mixed feelings about the new law.
“I’m new to some of the streets so I need to use my GPS a lot, so if I’m driving and I’m just using my GPS, I’m gonna get pulled over for that? Like I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” she told 8News.
However, Rodriguez said she often sees drivers dangerously using their cell phones. “All the time, all the time. especially in Richmond because this is such a college area,” said Rodriguez.
Styron thinks the time is right for stricter laws. “I think the laws regarding cell phone use while driving haven’t really been strong enough until now,” she said.
First time offenders could face a traffic infraction with a fine of $125. The fine is $250 for each offense after that.
The law does not apply drivers who are lawfully stopped or parked. It also does not apply to emergency vehicle drivers, drivers who are calling to report an emergency or drivers using a radio-based communications device during an emergency or disaster relief operation.
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