Governor Ralph Northam today announced an amendment to Senate Bill 1768, sponsored by Senator Monty Mason. In the legislation’s current form, Senate Bill 1768 would prohibit drivers from holding a communications device in highway work zones. The Governor’s proposed amendments would expand this hands-free legislation to be a statewide law.
“The time has come for the Commonwealth to implement an effective and fair law to combat distracted driving,” said Governor Northam. “Too many families have lost loved ones as a result of a driver paying more attention to their phone than to their surroundings. This bill, as amended, will be a significant step forward in promoting traffic safety across the Commonwealth.”
These amendments direct the state to annually report on all citations issued pursuant to this act as well as the relevant demographic data of each person cited to ensure that this law is enforced appropriately. Additionally, these amendments direct various organizations—including DRIVE SMART Virginia and the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police—to develop training and educational materials for law enforcement agencies and the public.
Governor Northam’s amendment to Senate Bill 1768 builds on his administration’s goal of reducing or eliminating deaths on the Commonwealth’s roadways. In 2018, Governor Northam created the Governor’s Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety, chaired by Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran.
“Virginia’s traffic fatalities have risen every year since 2014,” said Senator Monty Mason. “Distracted driving caused by cell phone use, whether it’s dialing, texting, or checking email, is clearly the reason. I’m proud to be a part of a safety measure that will undoubtedly save the lives of many Virginians.”
“A distracted driver puts everyone on the road at risk—that’s why it’s so important we come around to a fix for this important issue,” said Delegate Jeff Bourne. “The governor’s amendments address concerns about disparate enforcement against drivers of color and will help ensure this measure is being enforced appropriately across the state.”
“We see too many traffic crashes and tragedies caused by distracted driving,” said Delegate Chris Collins. “This is affecting everyone, from road workers, to law enforcement officials and first responders trying to keep us safe, to highway workers who are maintaining and improving our roadways. It’s time for us to take action to protect those using our roads in order to save lives in the Commonwealth.”
“It has come to the point where people are so totally engrossed in their phones that they are almost oblivious to the world around them,” said Senator Richard Stuart. “And that’s just a dangerous recipe on the highway. I am grateful that Governor Northam has put his shoulder behind this lifesaving reform.”