Starting January 1, 2021, it will be a traffic infraction to hold a cell phone while driving.
Starting January 1, 2021, it will be unlawful for any person that is driving to hold a cell phone. There are exceptions to drivers who are parked or stopped, reporting an emergency, driving an emergency vehicles and using a phone for work duties, or drivers using a CB radio. A first offense shall have a fine of $125.00. For subsequent offenses or if the offender was driving in a work zone, the fine will be $250.00.
This new law will be codified under Virginia Code § 46.2-818.2 and repeals Virginia Code § 46.2-1078.1. Under § 46.2-1078.1, the law is confusing to enforce because you could use a phone for its GPS or to dial a number but not to read email or send text messages. The new statute makes “holding” a cell phone the offense and provides less exceptions to the rule.
It is still possible for a law enforcement officer to charge a driver with reckless driving if they feel that a driver was endangering the life, limb, or property of another by their distracted driving. Under Virginia Code § 46.2-868, if someone is convicted of reckless driving while holding a cell phone, there will be a mandatory fine of $250.00 for the reckless driving conviction.
The exact text of Virginia Code § 46.2-818.2 shall read:
§ 46.2-818.2. Use of handheld personal communications devices in certain motor vehicles; exceptions; penalty.
A. It is unlawful for any person, while driving a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth, to hold a handheld personal communications device.
B. The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
1. The operator of any emergency vehicle while he is engaged in the performance of his official duties;
2. An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped;
3. Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency;
4. The use of an amateur or a citizens band radio; or
5. The operator of any Department of Transportation vehicle or vehicle operated pursuant to the Department of Transportation safety service patrol program or pursuant to a contract with the Department of Transportation for, or that includes, traffic incident management services as defined in subsection B of § 46.2-920.1 during the performance of traffic incident management services.
C. A violation of this section is a traffic infraction punishable, for a first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $250. If a violation of this section occurs in a highway work zone, it shall be punishable by a mandatory fine of $250.
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