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Catch-22 in Virginia

A good article in the Washington Post unpacks some of the vagaries of laws prohibiting texting and cell-phone use while driving. My favorite passage, concerning Virginia, notes:

The law makes texting a secondary offense, so an officer has to stop a driver for some other reason before writing a texting citation. In court, the driver can say he was dialing a phone call, which is legal, or using his phone’s GPS function, which is legal. Short of getting texting records from a phone company, which isn’t allowed because the crime is a misdemeanor, an officer has no way to prove a driver was texting.

If the law seems laughable, the fine is a real joke: $20.

Maryland’s forthcoming law, by contrast, sets the fine at $500.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 at 7:16 am and is filed under Traffic Enforcement, Traffic Laws, Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Catch-22 in Virginia”

  1. Mark Says:

    We already have enough laws people ignore, so additional laws won’t stop stupid, dangerous behavior. I can’t dial a cell phone while stopped in traffic in states where it’s illegal to use a cell phone while driving, but I can still, I imagine, turn around and speak to a child in a child safety seat legally. The real issue is paying attention to driving, and there are already laws against inattentive driving. Let’s use those to prosecute people for being unsafe. Texting while driving in Montana might be safer, and sensible, in Montana, but not in Manhattan. Then again, while stopped in Manhattan gridlock texting might be safer than texting at 80 MPH in a Montana snowstorm. Conditions and safety should drive behavior, not blind laws. I’ve texted while driving, and it took me about 10 minutes to send a short message—I likely won’t do it again. My daughter can text while driving, and she never looks at the keyboard, because she practiced a lot in her bedroom. And I disagree with her texting. In short, more laws won’t help much…better drivers will.

  2. ldsjaneite Says:

    Being a VA resident–and a hater of all texting in general, in the car or not–I agree that the fine is a joke. It is a mere slap on the wrist that won’t stop anyone from doing it.

  3. fred_dot_u Says:

    I found a disturbing, but professionally done bit of video online recently, specific to texting:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8I54mlK0kVw

    It’s called COW Taster 01, part of a series. It was disturbing enough that I didn’t watch more than the first episode, but it would be good to have as many teens as possible view this one.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

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