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Virginia delegate says texting while driving still a huge problem, wants to double the fine

Posted at 9:59 PM, Dec 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-14 23:39:44-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Henrico Delegate John O’Bannon has proposed a bill that would double the fine for texting while driving after three area high school students suggested it to him, but some wonder if a steeper penalty will work.

Currently, the fine is $125 for the first offense of texting while driving, and $250 for second offense.

O’Bannon’s bill would double those numbers to $250 for first offense, and $500 for second offense.

Texting driving

Kierra Berry, who graduated from Tucker High School this year, prepared a mock texting while driving bill for class with two of her friends in April.

They sent it to O’Bannon, and he decided to pursue their suggestion of stiffer penalties. Berry had no idea her legislation would actually be proposed in the General Assembly.

“Wow, really? I feel like I did something good,” Berry said. “It is a serious problem.”

The General Assembly banned texting while driving in 2013, but O’Bannon said the problem persists.

“I don’t see any reduction in texting while driving,” O’Bannon said.

John O’Bannon

John O’Bannon

He said hitting people where it hurts, their pocket books, will deter people from texting while driving.

But, Dana Schrad with the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the current law makes it hard to enforce.

“You can’t prove the person is texting unless you can actually see the phone or if they admit to it,” Schrad said.

Drivers in Virginia are still allowed to use GPS capabilities, check the internet, and type in a phone number while driving, which are all actions that resemble texting.

Schrad said banning all cell phone usage while driving would make the law much easier to enforce.

“There are certainly legislators who are interested in doing that, and we would certainly support a hands free bill,” Schrad said.

According to numbers from the Chesterfield, Richmond and Henrico police departments, 95 drivers have been cited for texting while driving so far this year.

The total number last year came to 99 drivers.