Here in California, texting behind the wheel has been illegal for awhile, as has even talking on a cellphone while driving. But that’s not the case in other states. Various types of legislation have been passed across the country that attempt to curtail the texting scourge, and these laws have had varying degrees of success.
A recent incident in Virginia has lawmakers attempting to make their texting ban stronger than it currently is. Right now, texting is a secondary offense, so an officer can only pull an offender over if he or she has engaged in another illegal act. Offenses cost a relatively low $20, with any further violations costing $50.
However, a Fairfax County judge recently reviewed a case in which the driver of a vehicle involved in a fatal crash was alleged to have been texting at the time of the collision. Some expected a reckless driving charge to be applied to the individual, which could have led the person to go to jail for a year. But the judge said that the texting law as it stands actually makes texting at the wheel a lesser offense than recklessness. Therefore, conviction of reckless driving, the judge argued, could not stand on legal grounds.
That’s part of the reason why the Virginia State Crime Commission is stepping in. Members are currently looking into how they could ensure texting gets considered more seriously in cases such as the one mentioned above, and they will issue a proposal as soon December 5. Their recommendation could lead the assembly to classify texting as recklessness, although it doesn’t guarantee such a move.