Effective January 1, 2021, it will be illegal to hold a handheld personal communications device (i.e.- a smartphone, flip phone, or tablet) while operating a moving motor vehicle in Virginia. This new law is one of many ways the state is moving to buckle down on distracted driving.
For liability and workers compensation insurance reasons, members should already have policies in place prohibiting staff from operating dealership or customer vehicles while using a handheld personal communications device. Dealerships should use this opportunity to remind your employees of your policy, remind them of the consequences of violating the policy, and alert your staff to the new law and enforcement of it.
In the event they are pulled over for holding a handheld personal communications device, instruct them to act in the same manner they would for any traffic stop. They will NOT be asked to hand the device over to the officer. Keep in mind that WHAT they are doing with the device is irrelevant; it is the act of HOLDING the device while driving that is illegal.
A person who violates 46.2-818.2 is subject to a fine of $125 for the first offense and $250 for the second and subsequent offenses. A person who is convicted of reckless driving who was also in violation of 46.2-818.2 when committing the offense can be fined up to $2,500, up to 12 months in jail, and up to a six-month license suspension, but shall be fined a mandatory minimum fine of $250. A person who violates this law while driving in a highway work zone will be fined $250.
This law applies to anyone operating a moving vehicle. It doesn’t apply when the vehicle is lawfully parked or stopped. It also doesn’t apply when you are using a handheld personal communications device in order to report an emergency.
For more information, visit phonedown.org.