Virginia’s New Hands-Free Driving Law!

Breaking News!!! Starting on January 1st, 2021, all Virginia drivers will be banned from touching their phones while driving.


Meghan DeGrandpre

Would you pick up the phone?

That’s right, it used to be a simple “no texting” law, but the government has decided, for the safety of its citizens, to make it illegal to use a cellphone while driving for any reason. They claim that this law will make it easier for police officers to enforce the rules about cellphones and driving now that there is a stringent no phone at all rule. This law was introduced in mid-summer 2020, but the government wanted to ensure about six months as an educational period to spread the word and not officially enact it until the start of the new year. My question for you is this: did you have any idea about this law before reading this article? If you answered no to this question, you are one of many in the Virginia area who were left uninformed about this new law.

Emma Moyer, student at Lafayette High School, tells us how she feels about this new Virginia law. (Meghan DeGrandpre)

Teen driver, and student at Lafayette High School, Emma Moyer gave her input on the issue of being left in the dark, saying: “I had no idea about this new law, this is the first time I’m hearing about it.” This generation of young drivers need to be better informed about this new law, it’s not the simple “don’t text and drive” anymore, there are new charges and consequences that will be enforced. Holding a handheld communications device while driving a motor vehicle is now considered a primary offence, with penalties starting at $125 for the first offence, and any offence after that will be a fine of $250. To some this may seem to high, but Moyer makes the argument that these prices “…will compel people not to go on their phones because no one wants to pay that much” and she even went as far to say that “They should raise the penalties just to scare people.”

Elizabeth Buetow, local Williamsburg physician, gives us her opinion on this new Virginia driving law. (Meghan DeGrandpre)

Now, let’s take a look at a different perspective: an adult driver, with many years of living and driving experience. Elizabeth Buetow, a local physician in the Williamsburg area, when asked about how familiar she was with this new law, claimed that she “saw a sign on the highway, that’s how I first heard of it,” but goes on to say that she was still “unaware of the specifics, it was simply a glance of the eye.” If Buetow just saw this sign by chance, imagine the countless number of people who drive by without acknowledging it at all, more efforts need to be made to diffuse information about this new law.

Many questions have arisen in regards to this new law, one being: is there any allowances to utilize a cellphone in the case of an emergency? According to DRIVE SMART Virginia, there are some exceptions to this law:

  1. The operator of any emergency vehicle while he/she is engaged in the performance of his/her official duties.
  2. An operator who is lawfully parked or stopped.
  3. Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.

    To wear or not to wear. Should smartwatches be banned along with cellphones? (Meghan DeGrandpre)

Although this clears up some confusion, there are still many questions in regards to this new law. Buetow brings up a valid point that this law fails to enact regulations on smartwatches: “I believe some people will transition to using their smartwatches, and I think that’s going to be the next thing to go because they are just as dangerous.” If smartwatches are just as dangerous, why didn’t legislation think of this when putting together this law? We live in a world that is constantly changing and evolving with new advances in technology and we need to not just take into account the conveniences that these advancements provide for us, but the dangers they could put us in.

The inability to effectively spread awareness about this law will lead to confusion between citizens and police officers. Many people take phone calls while in the car, and being oblivious to the new restrictions will cause them to have to pay high fines for a law they had no idea existed. The government could invest in publications; such as newspapers, commercials, email blasts, or through social media, to further spread the word about this new law and ensure that all Virginia residents are well informed and ready to drive smartly and safely.