Today, most people are aware of the many dangers that surround texting and driving. It is a practice that injures and kills too many people around the country every year. It is for this reason that in 2013, Virginia made it illegal for all drivers to text and drive. Now however, a new law poses even stricter penalties on anyone that does it while driving through a work zone, such as a construction site on the side of the road.
The law states that those charged with a first offense of texting and driving will be charged a fine of $125. Anyone charged with a second or subsequent offense will be charged $250. While these laws still stand, the law has changed for anyone caught texting and driving in a work zone. Now, even a first offense of doing this will result in a fine of $250 as well. The law went into effect on July 1, 2018, just in time for the July Fourth holiday.
The new law was made to protect construction workers, and anyone else in a work zone near drivers and traffic. After a drastic increase in work zone injuries and fatalities in the state last year, lawmakers believed something had to be done. In 2017 fatalities in work zones increased by 20 percent, while injuries increased by six percent. In the first half of 2018, there were already 150 car accidents due to texting and driving in Virginia.
While at first it may seem as though the law makes Virginia’s roads safer, some feel that the way people are charged with the offense may be unfair.
“The law is considered a primary offense,” says Steve Duckett of Price Benowitz LLP. “That means that a police officer can pull someone over and charge them with texting and driving simply because they believe the driver was engaging in the practice, even if they were not. A driver may be looking down at the radio or at a GPS system and will have little defense if the officer believes otherwise.”
While the new law will make roads safer for workers in some of the most dangerous environments, some wonder if the way the law is carried out will provide true justice for drivers.