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Selfish habit now illegal

Published 8:25pm Thursday, June 27, 2013

The selfish, highly dangerous habit of text-messaging while driving will be easier to police and will carry stiffer consequences come Monday.

On that day, Virginia will become the 37th state to make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning that a police officer doesn’t require another reason to stop a vehicle before enforcing the “no texting” law. That’s a substantial change that gives law enforcement much more power to stop the practice, which is all too common, especially among young drivers. Lawbreakers will also pay heftier fines: $125 for a first offense and $250 for a second or subsequent one.

Those amounts are still too small when considered in the context of the damage to life and property that texters can cause. According to AAA Tidewater Virginia, research has shown that taking your eye off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off your driving increases the potential for crashes as much as 400 percent. The highways are dangerous enough without careless drivers adding to the odds of an accident.

The law applies only to texting while a vehicle is moving. Drivers will still be able to talk on a cell phone, and they can text legally while parked or stopped.

AAA reminds us of a couple of other driving-related laws that take effect July 1.

Provisional driver’s license holders will not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle with more than one passenger under the age of 21 in the vehicle unless the driver is accompanied by a parent or person acting in loco parentis who is occupying a seat beside the driver. Currently, the restriction is no more than one person under the age of 18, during the first year of licensure. AAA observes accurately that raising the age restriction of passengers decreases the potential distractions for inexperienced drivers and gives them more opportunity to practice their driving skills safely.

Also effective Monday, titling and registration of mopeds will be required, as well as distinctive license plates for low-speed vehicles. The law will also require all moped operators to carry government-issued photo identification and wear a face shield, safety glasses or goggles if the moped is not equipped with safety glass or a windshield.

All three laws are well-reasoned and should enhance the safety of all motorists.

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