Virginia lawmakers are taking a stand against texting and driving, and will likely soon pass a law that bans holding a phone while on the highway.
Supporters say it’s a commonsense fix that will save lives; opponents worry it will give law enforcement too much control.
“Somebody going 55 miles per hour – if they look down for a mere five seconds to text somebody – that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed,” said Crandall & Katt Partner Peter Katt.
He’s no stranger to the damage a distracted driver can do.
“There are studies out there that equate the likelihood of crashing while texting as bad as, if not worse than, driving under the influence of alcohol,” he said.
He fully supports Virginia’s HB-1811 and SB-1341: identical state House and Senate bills that would make it illegal to even hold a cell phone while driving on the highway, with a few narrow exceptions.
He says texting and driving is currently a secondary offense, or something that – by itself – police can’t pull you over for.
He says this legislation would not only change that, but would make it easier for officers to prove.
“And unless somebody admits to that, usually an officer is not in a position to view that. They may see somebody with their head down or the driving may be erratic, but to actually spot them doing that is very difficult,” he said.
Something that people like Beau Correll, a political commentator, say could actually be a bad thing.
“I think what’s going to happen is you’re going to open up a Pandora’s Box where an officer is going to claim something was held, and that this was a mobile phone, when in reality it might’ve been something else,” he said.
Most big-box retailers offer dozens of options to keep your phone hands-free while you’re in the car, like a dash mount. Katt however, warns that as soon as your finger touches the phone’s screen, you’d be in violation of the new law.
“One thing that I think will make a difference is this provides a track record,” he said.
Katt says even though texting and driving would still be a traffic infraction under the new law – less than a misdemeanor – it gives law enforcement another tool in the toolbelt to keep roads safe.