Reston, VA

Since Virginia’s new law barring the use of mobile phones while driving went into effect on Jan. 1, local police have written hundreds of citations.

The Fairfax County Police Department has issued “over 415 tickets” related to violations of the hands-free law since the new year.

The Herndon Police Department tells Reston Now that its officers initially issued warnings but did not ticket motorists for violating the law, which prohibits people from holding a handheld communications device while driving a moving vehicle on Virginia highways.

“The first two months of 2021 saw our patrol officers issuing warnings to motorists that were observed in violation of the law,” a Herndon Police spokesperson wrote. “Our goal was to inform as many people as possible of the change in laws.”

However, Herndon Police began issuing citations on March 1, and since then, they have written 43 citations for motorists violating the law.

The state law notes that violations are punishable by a fine of $125 for the first offense and $250 for any subsequent offenses.

The law was technically enacted on July 1, 2020, but was not effective until six months later so that a public messaging campaign could be established and law enforcement could be trained on how to enforce it.

There are few notable expectations to the rule, including emergency vehicle operators performing official duties, drivers who are lawfully parked, and someone using their phone to report an emergency.

While it is illegal to hold a mobile phone while driving, it remains legal to talk on a phone provided it is not in the driver’s hand.

According to Drive Smart Virginia, nearly 15% of all fatal crashes in 2020 involved distracted driving.

Preliminary Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data indicates that Fairfax County had the most fatalities related to distracted driving in the state last year, as well as the most injuries resulting from distracted driving.

Photo via Alexandre Boucher/Unsplash

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