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Judge complains about Virginia law on texting while driving

The outcome of a fatal Fairfax County crash highlights the difficulty of getting a reckless driving conviction based on texting at the wheel.

A 2009 law that makes texting while driving a minor traffic infraction actually weakens the case for a reckless driving charge, prosecutor Ray Morrogh tells The Washington Post. Lawmakers promise to seek changes at the General Assembly.

The issue was painfully illustrated for a Fairfax County family who lost their college student son in a fatal accident. The driver responsible for the wreck was likely texting at the time, according to evidence in traffic court.

But the driver’s lawyer argued that mere texting at the wheel, without more, was insufficient to prove reckless driving in light of the legislature’s petty classification of texting.

At trial, Judge Thomas Gallahue agreed, dismissing the charge against the driver. Gallahue said the Virginia Code left him no choice.

Without the law making texting only a minor infraction, the case for reckless driving would be stronger, Morrogh said.

Del. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, said he will push to make it reckless driving to cause an accident while texting. Surovell represented the family of the Fairfax accident victim in a civil action against the accused driver.

Sen. George Barker, D-Fairfax, told the Post he will seek to make texting while driving a primary offense. Presently, an officer can write a texting ticket only if he stopped a driver for some other infraction.

3 comments

  1. Oh, for goodness’ sake. It’s not necessary for every driving infraction to be a felony.

    This shouldn’t affect a negligence action against the driver unless the prosecutor was silly enough not to charge him with the infraction as well.

  2. As a defense attorney, I agree with Judge’s Ruling. J. Gallahue was correct in all respects.

  3. On the other hand, the judge should not have been driving while complaining about the Virginia law on texting…

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