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Texting while driving law takes effect July 1, could be tough to enforce

Published On: Jun 20 2013 04:00:23 PM EDT
Texting while driving ban takes effect on July 1, but will it do anything?

Law only applies to texting while driving, not using any of your phones other functions


Starting July 1st, texting while driving will be a primary offense; you can be pulled over if an officer suspects you of doing it.

The big question: is it enforceable?

The short answer, it's going to be tough.

The ban on texting while driving passed 92-4 in the Virginia House of Delegates this past winter.

While the support for the ban was strong, the fact that the bill only applies to texting makes it weak in some people's eyes.   

Rest assured, officers know when you're on the phone while you're on the road.

"What we're looking for is their hands in front of their face their head's looking down, they're just distracted in general," said Roanoke City Police Sergeant Jamey Bowdel.

Proving a driver's on the phone is one thing, proving they were texting is something completely different.
"The law only covers texting while driving, it doesn't cover GPS or MP3 players on the phone. So trying to actually determine if they're in fact texting while driving or playing with another feature on the phone, that's going to be hard to figure out," Bowdel added.

Johnnie Myers, like many drivers, puts his phone on his dashboard and uses it as a GPS.  If he's seen fidgeting with that on the road after July 1st, he still can be pulled over, but not charged with texting while driving.

"It doesn't worry me one bit. Because you just explain it to them, and they can obviously look at it and tell I'm not sending a text message," Myers said.

Sergeant Jamey Bowdel knows not every driver will be as honest as Myers.

Even some legislators who signed the bill know this law could be tough to enforce.

"I supported that law, but with severe reservations. I'm an attorney, I understand it's very very difficult to enforce," said David Tuscano, the leader of the democratic caucus in the House of Delegates from Charlottesville.

Whether or not it's effective, both law makers and law enforcement know this bill is still a big step towards making roads safer.
"I think it's a signal to people of how important we think this is," Tuscano added.

"The important thing is the legislature recognizing that it is an issue, it's a safety factor. So the fact that they're acknowledging that and raising the fines, they clearly think it's an issue we need to be concerned about," said Bowdel

So whether or not you think you won't get pulled over, whether or not you think you're immune, law enforcement will be watching even closer for distracted drivers.

And based on the driving habits of some, they may not have to look too hard.

"There's always going to be distractions during driving, some people, you'd be surprised what they do while they're driving," said Johnnie Myers.

Sergeant Bowdel told me he thinks this bill is a good first stepping stone. He says one day he wants to see a full ban on handheld devices while driving.

Also worth noting, once the law takes effect on July 1st, if you are pulled over and convicted of texing while driving the fine jumps to $250 on first conviction and $500 for each one after that.