Virginia laws for texting and DWI are now tougher
Eight hundred new laws went into effect in Virginia on July 1, 2013.
Texting while driving is now a primary offense, meaning the driver can be stopped for texting. Before the change, texting while driving was a secondary offense, and the driver could only be charged when the offender was stopped for another separate offense.
A texting while driving conviction will carry a $125 fine for the first offense, and $250 for the second or subsequent offenses.
The new law increases the punishment of any person convicted of reckless driving to include a $250 mandatory fine if the person was texting at the time of a reckless driving offense.
Texting is permitted in private vehicles if it is stopped. Commercial drivers are not permitted to text even while stopped.
According to a press release from State Senator Ryan McDougle, in 2012 more than 20%(28,112) of all crashes in Virginia (123,588) were attributed to driver distractions. More than 28,000 crashes resulted in 174 fatalities and 16,709 injuries. Nearly 1,700 crashes involved drivers using cell phone or texting while operating a motor vehicle.
Also effective July 1, any Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) conviction will be a felony if a person has a prior conviction of involuntary manslaughter or maiming while either driving or boating that involved alcohol, or a third or subsequent DWI conviction. A felony DWI conviction now mandates a minimum fine of $1,000 and one year in prison.
During their first year of driving, drivers under 18 may have only one passenger under 21 who is not a family or household member. After the first year of driving, provisional drivers under 21 may have 3 passengers if they are going to or from a school event; or if one passenger is over 21 years of age.
Another new law prohibits the public from viewing concealed handgun permit records. Reportedly, the law was advocated by gun advocates in response to the publishing of gun permit information by a New York newspaper following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Other laws provide that:
- Virginia residents 65 and older can buy a lifetime saltwater recreation fishing license for $5.
- Private homes that prepare homemade foods will no longer be inspected by the Virginia Department of Agriculture if they place a label on the product that identifies where it was prepared.
- Schools must hold two lockdown drills each school year.
- The state sales tax has increased from 4% to 4.3%. The local 1% sales tax remains unchanged, so the total sales tax is 5.3%.
- State employees received a 2% pay raise.