Recent changes in Virginia law affect the practice of Virginia personal injury lawyers. On July 1, 2014, a new Virginia law made it a primary offense to text while driving. Although this is a change to laws governing motor vehicle operation and the penalty for a violation of the law is a misdemeanor offense, Virginia personal injury lawyers can use the statute in civil context to help prove a case for personal injury damages. The new statute is found at Va. Code Section 46.2-1078.1(1) and it provides that it is unlawful for any person operating a motor vehicle to use any handheld personal communications device to:
1. Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
2. Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information.
The penalty for a violation of the law is a fine. The first offense is $125.00 and subsequent offenses are $250.00.
The law is an attempt to address the growing problem of accidents caused by distracted driving. Statistics show that thousands are being killed by distracted drivers. In 2011, car accidents involving a distracted driver killed over 3,000 people. Even more frightening is the total number of persons injured in vehicle accidents involved distracted drivers – nearly 400,000 people! A large percentage of such accidents involve younger drivers. If you are the parent of a teenager, education about the dangers of distracted driving could be a lifesaver.