The following is a Guest Post from Andrew Flusche, Attorney at Law in Fredericksburg, VA.
We’ve all been there. You’re driving in traffic and there’s a vehicle somewhere near you that is all over the road. They are weaving in and out of their lane, they’re stopping short, almost hitting people, and you don’t know what’s going on. Then you get up next to them and see that the driver is staring down at their phone instead of watching the road.
There are plenty of studies that show that distracted driving with a phone is just as bad driving under the influence of alcohol (DWI). Virginia, like many other states, is trying to crack down on mobile phone distractions while driving.
Driving with a phone causes unique problems because you’re down looking at the phone instead of keeping your eyes on the road. And most people are also holding their phone, so both hands aren’t on the wheel.
Vehicles take a long time to stop even when the brakes are applied immediately. Add in a driver’s normal reaction time when you’re actually paying attention. Then add in not watching the road and not having both hands on the wheel. Now you have a recipe for disaster.
What concerns me the most is that some states, including Virginia, have tried to broaden their cell phone usage laws too much. The Virginia legislature tried to pass a law this year that would have made it a misdemeanor to use your phone for GPS or streaming radio. However, they did see the light of day and realized that it was an overbroad statute.
Virginia is among the states that ironically do not prohibit using your cell phone to make calls while driving. Holding your phone to your face and talking seems just as dangerous as texting or surfing the internet while driving.
Informal surveys have shown that most people would be in favor of a law against having a phone in your hand in the car. If you’re behind the wheel, I think it makes a lot of sense that you have your hands free so you can be focused on the road. Then people who are using their phone for music or navigation wouldn’t be punished, but texting would be prohibited by the law.
Two things are clear: mobile phones are a major distraction for drivers, and mobile phones aren’t going away. Thus, this area of law will be in a state of flux for years.
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Andrew Flusche is a Virginia DUI lawyer who handles cases ranging from DUI to reckless driving to speeding in Fredericksburg, Stafford, and Spotsylvania.