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Virginia Moves to Ban Holding Mobile Devices While Driving

Violating the hands-free law would carry a first-time fine of $125, under a bill passed by the House

The Virginia House of Delegates has passed a bill prohibiting drivers from holding their cellphones while on the road.

The law would ban drivers from holding any hand-held personal communications device while driving, strengthening Virginia’s current rules. Currently, drivers are banned from sending or reading texts, emails and similar messages, but it’s difficult for police to prove distraction by a hand-held device.

Fairfax County police 2nd Lt. Jason Long said the new bill would cut out a lot of the uncertainty around hand-held distraction while driving — either the device is in the driver’s hand or it isn’t.

“It would definitely make things a little easier for us,” he said. “We would be able to enforce violations of people just violating the hand-held ban, where as currently we have to be able to see them entering texts, entering emails, reading texts, reading emails, which is a little more difficult.”

Drivers would still be allowed to use their device in a hands-free manner, Del. Chris Collins, who introduced the bill, HB 1811, said in a Facebook post about the law. That means that you could still use Siri, Alexa and other voice assistants while driving.

Anyone found with a device in hand while driving could be fined $125 for a first offense and $250 for a second offense. There would be exceptions: Drivers could use their phones to report emergencies, and law enforcement and emergency workers could still use their devices on official business.

Both D.C. and Maryland ban the use of hand-held devices while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

The House passed a version of the bill last week, and it has been sent to a Senate committee.

If passed, the law would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

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