From State Sen. Scott Surovell’s office:
Senator Scott Surovell Reintroduces Legislation to Ban Hand-Held Phones While Driving
Virginia Partners for Safe Driving applaud efforts to address deadly distracted driving
ALEXANDRIA, VA – Senator Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax) introduced legislation to combat distracted driving and ban hand-held phones while driving. Standing alongside a coalition of supporters from the General Assembly, law enforcement, Drive Smart Virginia’s Virginia Partners for Safe Driving, and residents impacted by deadly distracted driving, Surovell called on his colleagues in the Virginia General Assembly to pass this critical and life-saving measure.
As an attorney, Surovell understands personal injury resulting from distracted driving firsthand. He recalled representing a family whose son was killed by a distracted driver. “That collision opened my eyes to how dangerous texting while driving can be,” Surovell said. “The individual in that case was never convicted of anything. This is a tragedy prevention bill.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified distracted driving as “a crisis that needs to be addressed now.” Manipulating a phone while driving increases a driver’s crash risk by a staggering 2300% because it involves all three kinds of distraction – manual, visual, and cognitive.
“Drivers must keep their hands, eyes, and minds on the driving task. Present Virginia law treats attentive driving as optional, and people look to the law for guidance,” National Traffic Safety Board Vice Chairman Bruce Landsberg said. “Whether you’re a Virginian or a visitor, there is no safe way to drive distracted, and the legislation proposed today would recognize that fact in law.
Several states are acting to protect residents from the risks associated with distracted driving. The District of Columbia and 21 states now ban the use of handheld devices while driving. Within two years of passing a handheld device ban, 13 states saw an average 16% decrease in traffic fatalities.
Jennifer Aument is President of Transurban North America which operates the 395, 495, and 95 Express Lanes and is a member of the Virginia Partners for Safe Driving. “The safety of the millions of customers we serve in the Greater Washington Area is a top priority for us at Transurban, that’s why we support this legislation. With this legislation in place lives will be saved, accidents reduced, and the quality of life for all travelers improved,” Aument said. “Drivers and pedestrians in the have put up with dangerous distracted driving conditions for far too long, it is time to pass this life saving legislation.”
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety found Virginia to be one of 11 states considered “dangerously behind” in driving safety laws. From 2014 to 2018, Virginia drivers were 57% more likely to be manipulating a cellphone according to a study by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
In Virginia, 15% of all fatal crashes were distraction-related in 2018. This number is likely understated as distraction is sometimes difficult to measure in the event of a fatality. The top two counties for total distracted driving fatalities and distracted driving injury crashes are Prince William County and Fairfax County.
Janet Brooking is the Executive Director of Drive Smart Virginia. “We commend Senator Surovell for his tireless efforts towards a #handsfreeVA. Manipulating a handheld phone while driving is by far the most egregious of all distracted driving behaviors as it involves all three kinds of distraction – manual, visual and cognitive. We call on the General Assembly to pass this life saving legislation and implore all drivers to drive distraction free,” Brooking said.
The pdf text of SB 160 is attached.
Senator Scott A. Surovell represents parts of Fairfax, Prince William, and Stafford Counties since 2015. Prior to his time in the Senate, Surovell served six years in the House of Delegates. Surovell lives in Mt. Vernon with his wife and four children. He practices law and has dedicated his legislative career to fighting for Northern Virginia’s fair share, protecting consumers, and preserving our environment for future generations.
Learn more about the Virginia Partners for Safe Driving at www.drivesmartva.org