Virginia’s War On Texting Has Multiple Approaches

Cops in Virginia’s largest county, Fairfax County, are having trouble enforcing Virginia’s new law banning texting. Virginia is one of 29 states to ban texting. But like many other states, while Virginia may ban texting, other acts such as dialing a phone number while driving remain legal to do. This is causing the Virginia police force much grief when it comes to enforcing the no-texting law, as it is very tough to tell the difference between the two acts. So in turn, the officers of the state are turning to a seldom-used law on the books to aid them in enforcing one of Virginia’s newest laws.
The law Fairfax County Virginia police officers are utilizing says that all drivers must “pay full time and attention” to the act of driving. Only in the event of a crash was this law enforced previously. Unlike Virginia’s texting law, which is a secondary offense (meaning that police can only enforce the texting law if they witness another violation first), the distracted driver law can be readily enforced. It also carries a $10 higher fee for first time offenders ($30 vs. $20).
According to an Eastern Shore Virginia accident attorney, Virginia’s texting law is just too hard to enforce on its own. Captain Susan Culin, commander of the Fairfax police department’s traffic division agrees, “It’s a very difficult law for us to enforce because there are loopholes in that law.” So it seems. In 2010 alone, only sixteen tickets for texting while driving have been issued in Fairfax County notes a Norfolk auto accident attorney.
Turns out, it’s not only loopholes that make the law difficult to enforce, but the sightlines as well. To combat this, Fairfax police officers are employing some unusual tactics, including driving trucks and other vehicles with high centers of gravity. And officers won’t just be observing drivers from the road says Captain Culin, “Officers may be positioned in ‘unorthodox’ locations where they’ll be able to best view careless behaviors that take a driver’s focus off of the roadway.”
One of the main benefits of using the distracted driver law is that police officers do not have to make a judgment call as to whether a driver was texting or dialing. It seems that the Virginia police force is not finding its citizens to be reliable sources of information on their own behavior. According to Captain Cully, “And if you’re relying on the driver to tell you, you’re probably not going to get a truthful answer.” An Eastern Shore Virginia accident attorney notes that if Virginia passed a law requiring a hands-free device to talk on a cell phone, making the distinction between texting and dialing would be rendered moot.
In the end, it is more about changing driver behaviors than issuing fines, even if it is a way to an end. Texting while driving has been proven to be extremely dangerous, and something the Fairfax police department aims to curb. “That’s the kind of behavior that we’ve got to ‘ve got to make them realize just how dangerous that behavior is and it’s got to stop,” surmised Captain Culin.