Police in Fairfax County are increasing efforts to reduce texting and driving. The county's police department held a demonstration at a local high school that provided students the opportunity to drive a golf cart while texting. Teens reported that texting during the demo led to dropping phones, rolling over cones and even almost flipping over the cart, according to a recent report by a local CBS affiliate.
The demo highlighted the dangers of texting and driving. Although texting and driving is dangerous, critics argue the state is going too far to address the issue of driver's using their phones while behind the wheel. More specifically, critics argue that Virginia's attempts to tighten texting while driving legislation are excessive and could lead to false reckless/traffic misdemeanor charges.
Virginia distracted driving laws
Virginia recently enacted a law that expands the reach of previous texting while driving laws. Originally, such laws were designed as secondary offenses. This means police could not simply pull over a driver out of suspicion that the driver was texting. Instead, the officer had to have other cause for pulling over the driver. The new law now makes texting a primary offense, allowing the stop based on texting alone.
Critics argue this expansion could infringe on motorist's rights. Observing a driver entering or reading text is not easily done. A recent article in the Huffington Post addressed the issue, noting that it remains legal in Virginia to use a phone in other ways as well as use a GPS device, further complicating the ability of a police officer to claim the driver was observed violating the law. After all, how can an officer be sure the driver was texting and not just checking the directions on a GPS device?
More on distracted driving in Fairfax County
In addition to texting and driving violations, drivers can also receive a "Fail to Pay Full Time and Attention to Driving" citation. Penalties for these violations vary. Generally, a first offense texting while driving violation leads to a $20 fine while a failure to pay attention fine can cost $250. Those who are violating these laws and putting "life, limb or property" at risk face a fine $2,500 and one year imprisonment.
As a result, it is important for those charged with distracted driving and other traffic violations to take the charges seriously. Charges can be fought and various defenses are available. Contact an experienced Fairfax traffic ticket attorney to discuss your case and help better ensure your legal rights are protected.