Common sense on distracted driving

Published 9:55 pm Monday, February 4, 2019

The General Assembly seems ready to expand the restrictions on distracted driving, and we think that’s a good thing.

Current law prohibits only the reading of any email or text message or manually entering letters or text in the device as a means of communicating.

The current bill under consideration in the House of Delegates, however, would prohibit holding a personal communications device while driving. Period.

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There would be exceptions for operators of emergency vehicles and VDOT vehicles in the performance of their official duties, and for vehicle operators lawfully parked or stopped. Someone using their phone to report an emergency would also be exempt, as would people using an amateur or citizens band radio.

Phones would only be able to be used in their hands-free and voice-operation mode.

We think this is a good bill that should improve safety on Virginia’s roads. Distracted driving is distracted driving, whether someone is sending a text message or using social media.

Laws, of course, do not stop all people who are tempted to violate them, but we hope it will make at least some people think twice about how badly they really need to check their Facebook news feed or send that email while they’re heading down the road at 55 miles per hour.

Of course, the ability of police officers to actually enforce a law should always be taken into consideration when making a law. In this case, we believe, the law against distracted driving becomes more enforceable, because holding a mobile device at all while driving would be illegal. Currently, officers are left guessing how the distracted driver is using their device, and it’s harder to prove the driver was engaging in illegal activity.

Regardless of what happens with these two bills, Senate Bill 1341 and House Bill 1811, we urge all drivers to be safer on the road and curb all distractions, whether they’re illegal or not. The lives of fellow users of the road depend on it.