Texting in Construction Zones - Why Virginia Drivers Face Higher Fines

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Texting at the wheel has been a primary offense in Virginia since 2013. That means a cop can pull you over if he or she thinks you are texting and driving. However, new fines for texting in construction zones came into law in July. 

Drivers are usually fined $125 for a first offense of texting in Virginia and $250 for a second offense.  

Under a new law enacted by the Virginia General Assembly - HB1525 - people caught texting or reading an email in a work zone when workers are present face a mandatory first fine of $250. 

The legislation targets the use of all handheld devices. A move to impose a wider ban on handheld devices while driving on all Virginia roads failed earlier this year in the General Assembly. 

Although Virginia has had a ban on texting and driving for over six years, lawmakers say the prohibition is difficult for police to enforce. Often officers cannot tell if a driver is using a phone to text or is entering a number for a call which remains legal. 

It’s legal to hold a phone while driving in the Commonwealth outside a work zone even though law enforcement agencies say this is a bad practice. 

Why are Work Zones so Dangerous in Virginia? 

Work zones are inherently dangerous places. Drivers often become confused by lane diversions, bright lights, work trucks, highway workers, and reduced speeds. Motorists often fail to slow down and react to these zones. 

Janet Brooking, the executive director of DRIVE SMART Virginia, told a local TV station, work zones or construction zones are hazardous by their nature. She said: 

“Unlike normal road conditions, work zones involve large equipment, traffic pattern changes, lane closures, uneven pavement, variable speed limits, and – most importantly – workers. That’s a volatile environment.” 

According to Brooking, work zone injuries and deaths rose by 20%, in 2018 while the number of injuries in work zones in the Commonwealth rose 6%. 

The number of deaths caused by distracted driving rose by a fifth in Virginia in 2017 to 208., according to Virginia Crash Facts, an annual report by the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

The distracted driving death toll fell 39.4% to 126 in 2018. However, texting and cellphone use continues to claim a grim toll on our roads. In 2018, 13,733 people were injured by distracted drivers. Many of them were using electronic devices at the time of their crashes. Other common forms of distracted driving include eyes not being on the road and drivers who look at incidents such as other crashes instead of paying attention to the road ahead. 

Contact a Virginia Personal Injury Lawyer Over Work Zone Accidents 

Work zones are found on many Virginia highways. Major routes like I-64 are the subject of long-term widening projects. The summer months typically see an upsurge in road improvement projects. 

The combination of busy highways, work zones, and cellphones is a potentially deadly one. Accidents in work zones are often very serious. On occasions, tractor-trailers have plowed into vehicles stopped ahead of them with devastating results. 

At the Smith Law Center, our attorneys litigate many serious accident cases that involve brain injuries, fractures, and spinal injuries. Please call our experienced team today at 757.244.7000. We have helped the injured on the Virginia Peninsula and across the country since the late 1940s. Please see our personal injury results on our website.