New Virginia law aims to reduce distracted driving accidents

Mobile phones have made it easier than ever to stay in touch and informed while on the go. Unfortunately, too many drivers drastically overestimate their ability to safely multitask while behind the wheel. 

In Virginia, distracted drivers account for over 1,500 motor vehicle accidents each year. To help reduce auto injuries and deaths related to cellphone use, a new state law banning the use of a handheld communications device while driving became active on July 1st, 2020. 

As of January 1st, 2021, violators of the law may face a fine of $125 for a first offense and subsequent fines of $250. 

How dangerous is distracted driving? 

According to DRIVE SMART Virginia, a recent Virginia Tech study found that 80% of all collisions involve driver inattention within 3 seconds of the accident. Additionally, texting while driving increases the chance of a collision by %2300. 

As alarming as these statistics are, they may actually underestimate the risks because distraction-related accidents are often underreported and hard to prove. However, the dangers of distracted driving, and especially texting while driving, are very real. 

Why is cellphone use behind the wheel so risky? 

The use of a hand-held device while driving creates three types of potential distraction: visual, physical and cognitive. 

In addition to taking his or her eyes off the road, a driver handling a phone may find it difficult to react manually to a sudden change in traffic flow without both hands on the wheel. If he or she is also mentally distracted, the risk of a collision is even greater.