New driving laws on the books in Virginia

Posted at 12:28 PM, Jun 27, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-27 21:18:07-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- New driving laws take effect July 1st in Virginia.  So far this year, Virginia has had 325 fatalities and more than 42,000 crashes on its roadways.

According to AAA Mid-Atlantic, nearly 21% of those crashes are attributed to distracted driving resulting in 36 fatalities and 2,066 injuries.

The new laws will affect those who text-and-drive, teen drivers and moped operators.  With an estimated 970,000 people predicted to be on the road during the 4th of July holiday, AAA Mid-Atlantic and Virginia State Police want drivers to be aware of the new laws.

One new law affects moped operators.  Every moped driver and passenger must wear a helmet, and the driver has to have a face shield, safety glasses or goggles.

Another law puts a limit on the number of passengers who can ride with a first year provision licensee to one person under the age of 21.

The new law AAA Mid-Atlantic is very happy to see is the one making texting behind-the-wheel a primary offense.  They say 21% of the fatal crashes so far this year alone are the result of distracted driving.Martha Meade with AAA Mid-Atlantic says the average time a person takes their eyes off the road to text is about 5 seconds.  "At 55 miles-per-hour the driver is traveling the length of a football field without ever looking at the forward roadway", says Meade.  "Imagine driving down the highway.  Close your eyes for that distance at that speed and tell me if you feel safe. Eating a Big Mac, putting on makeup, or listening to the radio isn't nearly as distracting as texting and driving".The AAA 2013 travel forecast for the July 4th holiday in Virginia is down 1.4% from 2012, predominantly due to a shorter holiday period. The holiday is on a Thursday this year.  That, coupled with gas prices 21 cents per gallon higher than this time last year, will have many Virginians staying close to home.