Virginia’s handsfree cellphone law: 5 FAQs

On Behalf of | Aug 19, 2020 | Motor Vehicle Accidents |

Beginning on New Year’s Day 2021, driving in Virginia while holding a cellphone or other personal communication device will be against the law. The General Assembly passed the new law earlier this year and Governor Northam signed it last month.

In this post, we will take consider several frequent asked questions about Virginia’s new law banning use of handheld devices while driving.

What is Virginia’s current law on cellphone use while driving?

Current Virginia law already bans texting while driving and emailing while driving.  The wording of the law prohibits “the reading of any email or text message” and entering by hand information into a personal communication device. Current law also prohibits holding such a device in a workzone.

What will the new law do?

The new law will try to prevent distracted driving by banning handheld mobile devices from being used by drivers when behind the wheel.

Will the new law contain exemptions?

Yes. There will be several exemptions. These include exemptions for:

  • Emergency vehicles
  • Drivers making an official report of an emergency
  • Drivers in parked cars

How many states have handsfree laws?

As we noted in a post last month about Virginia’s new law, about half the states now have such laws. The District of Columbia and Maryland already have similar handsfree laws.

What are the penalties for violation?

A first offense will cost a violator $125. The penalty will be $250 for a second or subsequent offense.

Enforcement will be as a “primary law.” This means that law enforcement will have the right to pull someone over for using a cellphone while driving, even if the person was not committing some other violation.