Virginia State Police say that they are taking an “educational approach” to the enforcement of a new law that makes driving with a cell phone in hand illegal.
The law went into effect on January 1st, 2021 and has been implemented for the last three weeks, but officers say they are focusing more on educating people about the new law and the reasons behind it rather than doling out tickets.
Lieutenant Ritchie with the Harrisonburg Police Department says that many warnings have been given to people driving with their cell phones in their hand, but warns drivers not to count on getting off so easy.
“It’s not a progressive thing as okay, we’re going to give you a verbal warning, then a written warning and then a – no, we don’t do that. When the officer looks at the circumstances and, with his discretion, he’s allowed to give you a written warning, give you a verbal warning, he could write you a summons,” said Lt. Ritchie to WHSV News.
According to the law, anyone pulled over for cell phone use while driving will receive a $150 fine for their first offense, with fines increasing for any repeated offenses. 37 summonses were issued during the first week of January alone.
Richie says that, when it comes to the new law, safety is the top priority.
“The bottom line is, I don’t want anybody running into a pedestrian, or crossing the center line and hitting a tractor trailer, or rear ending somebody just because they’re distracted, and these phones are very distracting,” he said.
Richie suggests that driver do the following rather than use their phone while driving:
- Utilize hands free Bluetooth if possible
- Pull over safely to use your phone
- Have the discipline to wait to use your phone until you get to your destination