…on the cell phone anyway, if the Virginia Senate gets its way.
If you’ve ever been out on the road and seen a car come at you driven by (1) a distracted teenager or (2) a distracted mom in a minvan or (3) a distracted salesman-looking guy, all of whom are yacking animatedly with a cell phone in one hand and the other on the wheel (maybe), here’s an item for you.
I personally have run across all three of these individuals at one time or another; fortunately, none of the three ran across, or into, me. Good thing one of us was watching the road.
The Associated Press is reporting that yesterday the Senate passed a bill to ban talking on a cell phone while driving unless using a hands-free device.
Senate Bill 517, patroned by Sen. Tommy Norment, R-Williamsburg, passed on a 25-15 vote Monday.
It would set phased-in penalties for drivers who take their hands off the wheel to hold a cell phone. Beginning July 1, the fine for yacking on a phone that’s not hands-free would be 20 bucks for the first violation, jacked to $50 for each infraction after that. The following year, the fine levels would be $100 and $200.
The ban would not apply to the operators of emergency vehicles, drivers who are stopped or parked, GPS or other digital dispatch systems like OnStar or anyone using a phone to report an emergency.
Chances for final passage? Maybe not so good. Since at least 2004, some senator or delegate has proposed this type of hands-free bill, and usually, they got tanked or sent to the Committee on Militia, Police and Public Safety (i.e., legislative Siberia). Still, last year the Assembly passed a no-texting-while-driving law, so keep your fingers crossed. And both hands on the wheel.