Photo: Mary Davidson

More drivers in Northern Virginia are being cited for texting while driving than any other portion of the state.

New statistics from the police agency show 567 drivers were cited statewide for sending a text message while behind the wheel in 2013. A total of 287 of those drivers were cited while in Northern Virginia, to include Fairfax, Prince William, and Loudoun counties.

The citations come after a new law that increased the penalties for texting while driving went into effect July 1, 2013. It was championed, in part, by Prince William County Delegate Richard Anderson.

More in a press release from state police:

Since the law went into effect, Virginia state troopers have been enforcing it just like any other primary offense. The trooper must observe the illegal conduct of the vehicle’s operator, thus providing the trooper with reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on that vehicle. Further investigation determines what, if any, offense(s) the driver will be cited for by the trooper. Troopers have the discretion to warn, summons or arrest a violator.

“Driving distracted puts everybody at risk on a highway,” said Colonel W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police Superintendent. “According to preliminary data*, driver distraction accounted for 20 percent of all fatal traffic crashes on Virginia’s roads in 2013. That accounts for 131 lives lost last year because of a driver failing to pay attention while behind the wheel of a vehicle.”

The new law passed last year made texting while driving a primary offense punishable by $125 for the first offense, and $250 for a second or subsequent offense. Before, texting while behind the wheel was a secondary offense and state troopers had to stop drivers for another reason before citing them with texting while driving.

Here’s a breakdown of the citations issued statewide:

Texting Enforcement: July 1, 2013 through Dec. 31, 2013  
Richmond Division 1
86
Culpeper Division 2 13
Appomattox Division 3 26
Wytheville Division 4 28
Chesapeake Division 5 92
Salem Division 6 27
Fairfax Division 7 287
Safety Division (statewide) 8
Total 328