Virginia May Stiffen Penalties for Texting While Driving

Both chambers of the General Assembly have approved legislation to toughen penalties for texting while driving.

Texting while driving is already punishable by a $20 fine, but it's a secondary offense. That means police can only write a ticket if they stop the motorist for another violation.

The Senate voted 24-15 and the House of Delegates voted 92-4 Tuesday to pass identical bills that would increase the fine to $250 and make it a primary offense. That would allow police to stop and ticket anyone they spot texting behind the wheel.

The fine for a second offense would be $500. If a driver is charged with reckless driving as a result of texting, there would be a mandatory minimum $500 fine.

The family of a young Herndon man who they believe died after being hit by a texting driver said they're happy that the bill passed.

"It's not texting -- it's not looking at the road while you're driving a car, which turns into a weapon," Carl Rowley told News4's Shomari Stone.

In May 2011, Rowley's 19-year-old son, Kyle, was pushing his broken-down car into the shoulder of Route 7 in Fairfax County when he was fatally struck by another vehicle.

If Gov. McDonnell signs the bills into law, the new fines will take effect July 1.

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