Texting while driving bill passes first hurdle

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — New texting while driving legislation is one step closer to becoming state law.

The Senate Committee on Courts of Justice passed the bill with a 9-6 vote Monday morning.

The bill, sponsored by bipartisan Senators Tommy Norment (R-James City County), and George Barker (D-Fairfax County), will move to the Senate floor Tuesday for another vote.

The two senators rolled their three collective bills into one that would make texting while driving a primary offense with a minimum fee of $250. Right now, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning a driver can only be found guilty if pulled over for another reason.

The proposed bill will also increase the minimum fine to $500 for those convicted of reckless driving while texting.

The bill has been years in the making, but progress has been slow.

“Sometimes you do just have to accept some incremental movement on a bill and I think this is more than incremental movement on the texting bill,” Sen. Norment said. “It is a significant policy change, making it a primary offense.”

Drivers told WAVY.com they think stronger laws would make some think twice about texting behind the wheel.

"If you know if you get caught doing it and it's something you have to pay out," said Sharon Anderson, a driver who supports the bill. "Versus, no consequences, at all."

"I think it will send a stronger message," said Chris Seger, a Richmond driver.

But despite the momentum, Sen. Norment says there will be stiff opposition in the Senate for Tuesday's vote.

"I expect it will be a fairly tight vote," Norment said.

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