Police set to enforce new texting while driving law

Hundreds of laws will take effect July 1 across Virginia, including one that cracks down hard on texting while driving.

Starting Monday texting while driving becomes a primary offense, meaning police can pull you over and ticket you if they catch you doing it.

Specifically, the law bans drivers from manually typing letters or words on their phone while operating a vehicle. The ban also applies to reading a text or email you receive on your phone while you're driving.

The law does allow drivers to talk on their cell phones. They can also touch their phone if it's being used as a GPS device. Finally, you can text or read your phone if you're stopped or legally parked.

Roanoke County Police admit there will be instances where making a call looks very similar to sending a text — and ultimately it will be up to each individual officer to determine whether you're breaking the law. However, they say a lot of the texting activity they see on the roads daily is very clear cut.

“I see people with two hands off the wheel, holding their phone in both hands, using two fingers to text,” said Officer Shaun Chuyka, Senior Traffic Officer for the Roanoke County Police Department. “It's obviously a text message. Or they're holding the phone up to their face, laughing at something or obviously reading a text message. It's pretty easy to tell.”

Officers are also warning drivers — if you're caught texting while driving expect a ticket on day one.

“As far as I'm concerned, if I see you texting and driving I will charge you,” said Chuyka. “It's been illegal for several years and it's a very dangerous activity that needs to be stopped. Unfortunately, that's the only way we have to stop it, is to press charges.

First time offenders will be hit with a $125 fine. Each time you're caught texting while driving after that, the fine increases to $250.

If texting while driving leads to reckless driving charges, the law requires a minimum fine of $250.

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