The year 2020 shocked our nation and the world with the Covid-19 Pandemic, deaths, closed schools, closed businesses, mask mandates, and more. Thousands have died, millions have lost their jobs and businesses, leading to frustration, worry, and anxiety. So, you could be forgiven for missing the fact that the Virginia Assembly passed over 1,000 new laws in 2020. One of these new laws may affect you more than others.  It is now a crime for a driver in Virginia to hold a cell phone in his or her hand while driving.

While I have never been big on texting and driving, I will admit that I am guilty of driving while holding a cell phone to my ear. For years, Virginia has had laws that prohibited using a cell phone in a construction zone or while driving a commercial vehicle; but now, starting January 1, 2021, drivers will not be permitted to hold a cell phone in their hand while driving.

Specifically, Virginia Code section 46.2818.2 states, “It is unlawful for any person, while driving a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth, to hold a handheld personal communication device.”

Of course, there are exceptions. The Code goes on to clarify that the law does not apply to (1) emergency vehicles, (2) a driver that is lawfully parked or stopped, (3) a driver reporting an emergency, (4) a driver using an amateur or citizen band radio, and (5) a Department of Transportation Vehicle operating as part of the service patrol program.

Violations of this section shall be punished by a $125.00 fine for a first offense and a $250.00 fine for any subsequent offenses. If the offense occurs in a work zone, then it shall be a $250.00 fine.

It appears that you can check your phone when stopped at a stop sign or light, but you would have to put the phone down when you started moving again. We will have to see how Judges interpret that section in the coming years.

Some reports claim that in Virginia, nearly 80% of accidents were cause by distracted driving. Over the past decade nearly 200,000 accidents and over 1,000 deaths were caused by distracted driving. So, I can certainly understand the motivation behind passing this new law. I guess it is time for me to connect my phone to my automobile’s Bluetooth speaker.