Reston, VA

Using a mobile phone while driving will officially be illegal in Virginia starting on Jan. 1.

Current state law prohibits reading a phone and texting while driving and holding a phone while driving through a work zone, but the Virginia General Assembly adopted legislation barring the use of handheld phones while driving a moving vehicle on state highways in March.

While the law was technically enacted on July 1, its effective date was delayed until the new year so that the public could be educated about its provisions and law enforcement agencies could get training on how to enforce it.

Violations of the new law will be punishable by a fine of $125 for the first offense and $250 fine for any subsequent offenses.

There are a few exceptions to the ban on using a phone while driving, including:

  • Emergency vehicle operators who are performing their official duties, including law enforcement and fire and medical responses
  • Drivers who are lawfully parked or stopped
  • Someone using their phone to report an emergency
  • The use of an amateur or citizens’ band radio
  • Department of Transportation vehicle operators who are performing traffic incident management services

Virginia’s public information campaign on the new law is being led by Drive Smart Virginia, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting traffic safety.

According to Drive Smart Virginia, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reported that 15% of all fatal crashes in 2018 were related to distracted driving. Fairfax County has the second-most distracted driving fatalities in the state, surpassed only by Prince William County, and the most injuries that result from distraction-related crashes.

The distracted driving ban is perhaps the most significant legal change coming to Virginia on New Year’s Day, but it is not the only new law that will take effect on Jan. 1.

Here are some other measures to be aware of when the new year arrives:

  • HB 264: requires in-person training for concealed handgun permits, removing online or electronic courses as an option for demonstrating competence
  • HB 1211: enables undocumented immigrants to apply for new driver privilege cards so they can legally drive
  • HB 66: prohibits health insurance companies from charging more than $50 per 30-day supply for prescription insulin
  • HB 789: sets a 36% annual rate cap on the interest and fees charged for a short-term loan, which can now go up to $2,500
  • SB 172: protects people who receive emergency services from an out-of-network healthcare provider from unexpected medical costs
  • HB 1407: prohibits employers from misclassifying employees as independent contractors
  • HB 742: gives localities the authority to regulate the takeoff and landing of unmanned aircraft on public property

Photo via Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash

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Gov. Ralph Northam will be in Herndon tomorrow (Tuesday) to promote his successful move to reinstate driver’s licenses that were suspended for failure to pay court fines.

Northam’s initiative, which began on July 1, allow any Virginian whose driver’s license was suspended for failure to pay court fines and costs to have their driving privileges restored. Fees for reinstatement will also be waived.

DMV 2 GO, the state Department of Motor Vehicles’ mobile office, will set up shop at the Herndon Fortnightly Library (768 Center Street) to raise awareness about the policy from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

State elected officials will be also be on-site to deliver remarks.

The Virginia General Assembly passed Northam’s proposed budget amendment in April, a move that his office said would “help countless others by preventing future debt-related suspensions for the remaining duration of the state budget.

“All Virginians must have a fair opportunity to fulfill their obligations without losing their jobs, their ability to take care for their families, and their dignity,” Northam wrote in a statement.

The mobile offices will come to Herndon every third Thursday of the month.

File photo

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Drivers who hold a cellphone while passing through a Virginia road work zone could face a $250 fine.

The law — which bars drivers from holding cellphones in work zones — goes into effect today (Monday).

Gov. Ralph Northam signed the bill in April as part of a broad attempt to tackle distracted driving in the state. Currently, texting while driving is banned.

Northam is also cracking down on drivers who fail to slow down or move to the side of a road when police or firefighters pass by with flashing lights.

Additionally, children up to age eight must be secured in a child safety restraint that meets standards adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Children must remain in a rear-facing carseat until the age of two or until they reach the minimum weight requirement for a forward-facing child safety seat.

Failure to follow the new law, which also went into effect today, will be considered reckless driving.

Lawmakers also approved a move that would free up the ability to increase local housing stock.

The quick fix changes how jurisdictions in the state bargain with developers for proffers or development conditions.

File photo

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