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Virginia Tries Again to Ban Handheld Devices While Driving

A proposed road safety bill would also require seatbelts and ban open containers in cars on Virginia roads

Some Virginia lawmakers are reviving an attempt to outlaw drivers from holding communication devices while operating a vehicle.

A broad transportation safety bill assigned Tuesday to a Virginia House Transportation subcommittee would make it illegal to hold cellphones and similar devices while driving.

Drivers wouldn't be allowed to physically manipulate the drive to view, read or enter data, the bill's text says.

This is the latest attempt to keep drivers off their phones. Both the House and the Senate approved similar bans during the 2019 legislative session, but couldn't agree on language for a single bill, News4 reported.

The measure under consideration for the next session would provide exceptions for transportation workers or other drivers reporting emergencies. If the bill passes as-is, the penalty for a first offense would be $125.

Virginia has seen an increase in traffic crashes, injuries and fatalities since a low point in 2014. According to state data, 819 people were killed in crashes across the state in 2018. Safety organization Drive Smart Virginia blames distracted driving for 80% of all crashes.

HB 1439, introduced by Democrat Del. Jay Jones, would implement four other safety measures if approved.

Riding without a seatbelt would become a primary offense, meaning officers can pull over drivers and ticket them for that issue alone.

Localities would also be able to reduce speed limits below 25 mph in business or residential areas. Highway camera speed camera monitoring would also be allowed.

Finally, open containers of alcohol would be completely banned in most passenger vehicles.

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