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‘Just pull over’ mother warns as Richmond bans holding phone while driving

Posted at 5:24 PM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 18:19:07-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- For more than eight years, Patty Kruszewski has advocated for stricter driving laws in the Commonwealth.

She warns against the dangers of distracted driving.

“It’s a no brainer,” Kruszewski said. “It’s like a reflex when I get a chance to speak about this because it’s so important to me.”

Her daughter, Lanie, was killed while riding her bike home from work on River Road on July 29, 2012

The driver was texting and didn’t stop to help the 24-year-old.

“The emergency this guy had when he hit Lanie was that he was texting somebody a birthday message,” Kruszewski explained.

Holding a phone while driving will soon be illegal in Richmond. The new city ordinance outlawing the practice begins Tuesday, June 9.

Kruszewski spoke in favor of the ban during a City Council meeting in December.

“I did used to talk on the phone while I drove,” she said. “I thought I could do it and not be distracted. Lanie tried to tell me without saying a word by grabbing the phone.”

Driving while holding a cell phone will be a primary offense.

“No longer are the officers required to also observe any distracted behavior by the driver. Just merely seeing the person using the phone is enough to pull that driver over and take action,” Special Operations Division Lt. Edward M. Capriglione explained.

A first offense will impose a $125 fine, while second or subsequent offenses carry a $250 fine.

“The goal is to increase the safety of all who use the roadways, including pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers, and other drivers,” Special Operations Division Captain Don Davenport said. “We want all motorists to begin each trip by buckling up and putting their phones down.”

There were more than 6,000 accidents investigated in the city in 2018. Among those, more than 1,100 of the crashes involved distracted driving, according to the most recent data available.

Distracted driving led to 300 injuries and four fatalities in Richmond in 2018, Lt. Capriglione said.

“I hope people take distracted driving seriously,” he stated. “I hope when they get in their cars they do two things: buckle up and put the phone down.”

Lanie would’ve turned 32 years old this past March.

“Just pull over,” Kruszewski warned. “It’s not that hard.”

You can still have a phone in your hand if:

• You are stopped
• You are parked
• You’re an emergency vehicle driver (police officer, firefighters, etc.
• You are reporting an emergency
• You are using the device during an emergency or disaster relief operation
• A similar law takes effect statewide in 2021.