As the legislative session came to an end in March 2018, Virginia’s lawmakers made some changes to enhance driver, passenger and pedestrian/roadside worker safety. Many initiatives were brought forward to curb distracted driving and to improve overall safety on the road—and making these initiatives law is a long, complicated process. It’s a marathon rather than a sprint.
However, the baby steps are making a difference. In particular, two new laws should pay immediate dividends: a mandatory minimum high fine for texting while traveling through work zones (enacted now), and a mandatory use of rear-facing child safety seats for children under the age of 2 (to become effective 07/01/2019).
Texting while driving is currently banned for all drivers in Virginia. Lawmakers successfully amended this law by adding a mandatory minimum $250 fine for a first offense of texting while driving in a work zone. Read further about the language of the bill in HB1525. The bill’s goal was to open drivers’ eyes to the danger that texting presents not only to them, but to the workers in those zones trying to accomplish their jobs. This mandatory fine for work zones is higher than the fine that accompanies a simple texting while driving conviction, and it lays the groundwork for increased penalties for driving while being distracted by a cell phone.
HB708 further defines the use of rear-facing child safety seats. Current Virginia law stipulates that children under the age of 8 must be secured in a child safety restraint device (forward- or rear-facing car seat or a booster seat). HB708 mandates that children under the age of 2 must be secured in a rear-facing child safety seat. While the law has been passed, it will not go into effect until July 1, 2019.
As we continue to recognize April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, make sure to put down the phone while your driving—disconnect from technology while the wheels are in motion. You may save your life and the life of a worker in a highway work zone. And while rear-facing child safety seats are not yet fully mandatory, no one will argue the importance of using child safety restraint devices (and using them properly). Always buckle your own belt and your children. Keep everyone safe during your travels.
Happy driving! Drive Safely!