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Surovell’s hands-free cell phone bill Senate passes committee

Delegate Scott Surovell (D-36th Fairfax, Prince William, Stafford) tells us his hands-free cell phone bill passed a Senate committee.

From a press release: 

The Senate Committee on Transportation has passed Senator Scott A. Surovell’s legislation that prohibits driving while operating any mobile communications device unless it is being used in “hands-free” mode.

Senator Surovell introduced the same legislation last year when it failed on a 6-7 vote. Virginia prohibited texting while driving in 2009, but it was classified as a secondary offense punishable by a small fine. In 2010, Fairfax County Police reported writing fewer than fifty tickets for texting while driving because of loopholes in the law and the fact that it was a secondary infraction.1 Senator Surovell began working on bills to prohibit texting while driving after an 18 year-old Fairfax County resident, Kyle Rowley, was killed on Route 7 near Herndon after a distracted texting driver stuck his vehicle without breaking at full speed on a highway.

After the driver was acquitted of Reckless Driving due to the existing secondary offense statute, Senator Surovell partnered with with Delegate Ben Cline to make texting while driving a primary driving offense.2 That bill was ultimately passed and became law in July 2013. However, that legislation has continued to elude effective enforcement. Law enforcement has been critical of the legislation because it is often difficult to verify a driver’s activity with their phone or obtain a conviction absent a confession by the driver.

“It should not be legal to play Angry Birds, chase Pokemon, surf the Internet, or order food while driving,” said Senator Surovell, “passing hand’s free legislation will bring us into conformity with our neighbors in Maryland, Washington, D.C. and fourteen other states that have prohibited driving with a phone in hand.”

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