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Get the facts on Virginia’s new handheld device ban

As of January 1, 2021, Virginia will begin enforcing its new handheld device ban for drivers. Under the new law, using a smartphone or another electronic device while driving will be a primary offense with fines starting at $125.

Review the provisions of the ban to avoid a ticket and prevent a serious auto accident.

Prohibited actions

Although state laws have prohibited texting and driving for some time, the expanded bill applies to any handheld action on a device while behind the wheel. However, drivers can still use voice commands to navigate, play music, dictate messages and use other tools as long as they do not have the phone in hand.

Exceptions to the bill

The ban on handheld device use does not apply to:

  • A driver who has parked his or her vehicle in a legal parking space
  • A driver who is performing traffic management services on behalf of the Virginia Department of Transportation
  • A driver using his or her device to report an emergency situation
  • A driver who is using a CB or other amateur radio
  • First responders using their devices to conduct official duties

Prior to the passage of the new law in summer 2020, safety advocates such as Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety ranked Virginia as one of the states with the weakest driving distraction laws. The state Department of Motor Vehicles reported that an average of 18% of annual crashes result from driver cellphone use.

Following the letter of this law can help prevent serious or fatal collisions. Parents should talk with their teens about the dangers of distracted driving and set a good example with their own behavior.