Virginia Capitol by Ron Cogswell
Each year, Virginia's General Assembly signs new bills into law that go into effect on July 1. As we move towards legislation that bans handheld use of cell phones, there are also a few other new laws that will immediately affect daily life and driving around the commonwealth.
Ban on Handheld Phones and More
House bill 874 establishes the first total ban on the use of handheld devices when driving. That includes phones and any other handheld device. Previously, Virginia law only prohibited reading or sending texts or emails while driving in a work zone. There are a few exceptions to the prohibited handheld device use. It does not include:
- Handheld use while lawfully stopped and parked
- Used to report an emergency
- Use of amateur or citizens band radio
- Use for official business by the Department of Transportation
- Use by emergency vehicles
Enactment of this new law will be delayed to January 1, 2021, to allow for the education of Virginia citizens.
Drivers Must Stop While Yielding to Pedestrians
Did you think this was already a law? Good for you! Then this will be easy. Starting July 1st, all vehicle drivers must stop (not just yield) for pedestrians in a crosswalk, even if they aren’t in your lane yet. Drivers behind you who don’t know the law may honk. That’s okay! Keep your cool and let them honk while you ensure that all community members cross safely.
Driving More Than 85 mph is Reckless
This new law raises the threshold for reckless driving from 80 mph to 85 mph. Keep in mind, it's reckless driving if you exceed 20 mph over the posted speed limit. That means if the posted speed limit is 55 mph, you can be ticketed for driving over 75. The bill also stipulates a $100 fine for drivers exceeding 80 mph but under 86 mph on highways in VA with max speed limits of 65 mph.
This is a good time to remind everyone that speed kills. The 2019 Virginia Traffic Crash Facts Study reported over 24,000 speed-related crashes in the commonwealth. Those resulted in more than 13,000 injuries and 349 fatalities. Speeding can also translate to dings on your driving record and expensive tickets. On average, a speeding ticket in Virginia costs between $350–$400 after you add in taxes and fees. They also add points on your license, as follows:
- 3 Demerit Points: If you're found to be driving between 1–9 MPH over the posted speed limit.
- 4 Demerit Points: If you're found to be driving between 10–19 MPH over the posted speed limit.
- 6 Demerit Points: If you were found driving more than 20 MPH over the posted speed limit.
Photo Speed-Monitoring Devices
Another new law related to speeding in the commonwealth allows Virginia police to use photo speed-monitoring devices in or around school crossings and highway work zones. A $100 civil penalty will be given for drivers exceeding the posted speed limit by at 10 or more mph. Summonses issued by mail will not go on your DMV transcript while those issued by officers will.