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Cracking down on texting while driving

Published 10:21am Monday, February 4, 2013

BY SAM ISAACS/CAPITAL NEWS SERVICE

isaacssl@vcu.edu

 

RICHMOND—Members of the House and Senate are optimistic that at least some of the 10 bills to crack down on texting while driving will make it past the legislative deadline called crossover day.

At the start of the session, three such bills were filed in the Senate bills and seven in the House. If a bill has not made it out of the House or Senate by Tuesday, it is left on table for the year. Beginning Wednesday, the House can consider only bills approved by the Senate, and the Senate can consider only legislation passed by the House.

Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, is the chief patron of two of the Senate bills. He is hopeful the legislation will make it past crossover.

“We have been trying this for a few years and have been gradually making progress. I think the odds look good this year,” Barker said.

Last year, his bill to increase the penalties for texting while driving passed the Senate but died in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.

This year, Barker is sponsoring a bill that would increase the fine for texting while driving to $200 for a first offense and $500 dollars for a second offense. The existing penalties are $20 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offense. They were set in 2009 when the General Assembly passed the current law against texting while driving.

The bill also would make texting while driving a primary offense. It is a secondary offense, meaning drivers can be charged only if they have been stopped for another violation.

Barker’s other bill would make texting while driving punishable as reckless driving. Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, has a similar proposal.

All three Senate bills will be heard today, Monday, in Senate Courts of Justice Committee on. If approved by the committee, they will go to the full Senate.

The seven House bills have been folded into one proposed by Del. Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge.

 

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