As a Virginia driver, you're certainly aware of the fact that far too many people drive while using their phones. It's an easy habit to get into, especially when there have been few repercussions for those who use their phones while operating a vehicle. As a result of Virginia House Bill 874, a new 2021 Virginia cell phone law makes it illegal to hold a cell phone in any manner while driving. There are a few exceptions, but by and large drivers should plan on keeping their phones out of their hands while driving. (Keep in mind that this doesn't mean you cannot talk on your phone while driving, only that you can't hold it in your hand.) Using a hands-free device is still legal. I'll tell you more below, as well as when a Fairfax traffic lawyer can help if you are cited for using a phone while driving. Kassabian & Kassabian has been working in Fairfax, Prince William County, and across Northern Virginia for over 25 years, so don't hesitate to get in touch if you have legal questions.
Dangers of Using Cell Phones While Driving
While it may seem like no big deal to make a quick call or send a text while you're behind the wheel, if we look at the statistics we see that this is far from the truth. For one, texting and driving increases your risk of crash by over 2000 percent. This makes sense when you think about it, as texting results in various types of distraction: manual distraction from the act of texting itself, visual distraction from looking at your phone, and cognitive distraction because when you are texting, your mind is not on the road.
Research from Virginia Tech University shows that 80 percent of all crashes are related to a driver who is not paying attention. And distracted driving statistics for Virginia are especially alarming. According to preliminary figures from the Virginia DMV, 14.2 percent of fatal crashes in 2020 involved distracted driving. Fairfax County and Prince William County drivers are among the worst offenders when it comes to fatalities and injuries that are related to distracted driving. In fact, Fairfax County tops the list for both injuries and fatalities.
When we look at these numbers, we can see that the new law, even if we find it inconvenient, is quite necessary. That said, being wrongly charged with driving while using your phone is a possibility. If you feel you have been unfairly charged, a traffic lawyer in Fairfax can help.
Penalties for Driving While Using a Cell Phone
When it comes to the monetary penalties for driving while using your cell phone, they certainly aren't cheap: a first offense carries a fine of $125 and a second offense will result in a $250 fine. It's also important to remember that if you are caught using a cell phone while driving in a highway work zone, you will face a mandatory $250 fine. Additionally, the punishment for any person convicted of reckless driving while also in violation of using a cell phone while driving, will include an a mandatory minimum fine of $250.
For most people, grumbling a little and paying the fine is the easiest way to respond after getting a ticket for using your phone while driving. But for others, especially those with many existing traffic offenses, the charge becomes more problematic. For example, if you have a significant number of traffic offenses already on your record, you may be at risk of losing your license altogether. Also, a finding for this offense is a traffic violation that will carry DMV demerit points on your Virginia driving record.
In other cases, you may not have the money to pay expensive fines, especially if an officer was incorrect about the charge. In these cases, getting in touch with a Fairfax traffic lawyer can be a good way to reduce fines, penalties, or points on your DMV record. If you are facing these issues, Kassabian & Kassabian, P.L.C. has helped many Northern Virginia citizens get traffic charges reduced, and we may be able to help you as well.
Exceptions to the New Law
As with every law, there are some exceptions to the rules and it is important to know about them just in case you are wrongfully charged. For one, if the driver of an emergency vehicle or an operator of a Department of Transportation vehicle uses a cell phone while doing the duties of their job, they will not be penalized. Using your cell phone while parked is also okay. A final exception to the law is if you are using your cell phone while driving to report an emergency, this is perfectly legal.
When to Seek Legal Help
If you are concerned that you were wrongly charged for using a phone while driving, a traffic lawyer in Fairfax may be able to help, especially if you have other traffic charges that are jeopardizing your ability to drive. Kassabian & Kassabian P.L.C. is available for free consultations and can tell you more about your rights and what to expect if you have a case.
Contact John Kassabian today at 703-750-3622.