Virginia Lawmakers Vote to Ban Handheld Devices While Driving, but Will it Reduce Crashes?

Virginia lawmakers have voted to prohibit drivers from using handheld mobile devices while behind the wheel, a major tightening of an existing ban against texting while driving as new research shows distracted driving remains a persistent problem. With passage of legislation by both houses of the General Assembly, Virginia joins Maryland, the District and other states nationwide in banning the handheld use of cellphones while driving.

Supporters say they expect the legislation to clear final procedural votes and be signed into law. Fines would be $125 for the first offense and $250 for the second and subsequent; the law would take effect Jan. 1.

The Virginia ban leaves room for drivers to look at their screens, including GPS, and to handle their phones when at a stop light. The precise language is: “It is unlawful for any person, while driving a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth, to hold a handheld personal communications device.”

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