Nelson police prepare to enforce texting while driving measure
07/10/2013 11:52 AM
Texting while driving in Virginia now is considered a primary offense, and Nelson County law enforcement officials now have been briefed on how to enforce it.
The law that has made texting while driving a primary offense — meaning that drivers can be ticketed for it even if they have not done anything else wrong — was just one of the many changes to state law discussed at a briefing Monday for local law enforcement personnel.
At the presentation, Nelson County Commonwealth’s Attorney Anthony Martin and Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jerry Gress discussed court decisions from the past year and new laws and amendments from the 2013 General Assembly session that became effective as of July 1.
Martin said the adjustment that made the texting law more stringent was a response to the tragedies that have come from people texting while driving.
Previously, law enforcement officers had to have a different reason for pulling a driver over before adding on texting while driving as a secondary offense. The penalty for that secondary offense was a $20 fine for the first offense and a $50 fine for the second offense.
Now the law has been amended so that texting while driving is a traffic infraction that carries a $125 fine for the first offense and a $250 fine for the second offense.
The law also was amended to include a mandatory minimum fine of $250 if a person is texting at the time of a reckless driving offense.
In this case, texting not only applies to the act of manually inserting letters and words into a text or email, but also viewing texts or emails while a vehicle is in motion.
However, the law does not cover making phone calls or using Global Positioning Systems, both of which still are legal.
Because of that caveat, it will be hard for law enforcement personnel to know exactly what a driver is doing on his or her phone.
“A lot of legal experts think it will be unenforceable,” Martin said.
Regardless, he said that any incident of a person being on his or her phone while driving is “disruptive,” but texting is especially so, and lawmakers are hoping the law change will cut down on texting-related accidents and injuries.
Also discussed at the briefing was a new house bill that involves metal thefts.
According to information presented at the briefing, the “bill improves regulations of metal markets [by] making it harder to cash-in stolen metal.”
Metal sold for recycling and second-hand fixtures now will be regulated, and the term “scrap metal processors” has been amended to “scrap metal purchasers.”
The “licensed peddlers and brokers” loophole also has been eliminated.
Martin said currently not all scrap metal places keep good records, and the legislature is trying to improve upon that, so if something is stolen, it can be easier for law enforcement to investigate.
Now, all scrap metal purchasers will have to photograph or videotape all proprietary articles bought from sources other than authorized scrap sellers, according to information presented at the briefing.
A number of other law changes also were discussed at the briefing, including topics such as illegal substances, financial exploitation of incapacitated persons, gang predicate acts, impersonating police officers, carrying concealed handguns, felony stalking, “strawman” gun purchases and sexual crimes against children, among many others.