April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the police department has issued a press release (after the jump) highlighting the need to pay attention while at the wheel, especially as more pedestrians and bicyclists hit the streets during the warmer weather months.
The press release also mentions impending state legislation that makes texting while driving a primary offense. Currently, a driver can only be charged for texting if pulled over for another violation — and the penalty is a piddly $20 fine for the first offense and $50 for subsequent offenses. The new legislation would allow police to pull over a motorist only for texting, and would significantly increase the penalty.
The bill originally called for fines of $500 and $250, but an amendment approved by the state Senate this week cuts that in half. The bill is now awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature. If signed, the law will take effect July 1.
ACPD says it is prepared to enforce the texting law.
“Once the law is in effect we will incorporate it into our nationally recognized traffic and pedestrian safety programs,” said department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. “In terms of training, all Arlington County Police officers receive annual in-service training regarding new laws and legislative changes. The proposed Virginia texting law will be included in that training.”
The ACPD press release:
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Arlington County Police Department wants to remind residents to drive safely by maintaining concentration on the roads while driving.
Captain James Wasem, Arlington County Police Department’s Special Operations Commander, commented “with April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Arlington County Police Department would like to take this opportunity to encourage all drivers to stay alert and aware. With the nicer weather upon us, we expect a significant increase in pedestrian and bicycle traffic throughout our community and we would like to remind everyone to follow the rules of the road and refrain from driving while distracted”.
As Virginia legislation will be implementing new texting while driving laws, it is crucial for drivers to understand how serious distracted driving can be. Distracted or impaired driving is responsible for several thousand accidents around the country annually. Several of these accidents are directly linked to texting while driving, and many of them result in fatalities or serious injuries. No text, phone call, or other distraction is ever worth the risk of hurting yourself or others.
Drivers can practice safe driving by refraining from actions such as texting or other cell phone use, eating or drinking, reading a map, or trying to deal with children or passengers in the car while driving. These actions can be avoided by purchasing a hands-free device, GPS system with speaking features, and pulling over until an issue is fully addressed.
The Arlington County Police Departments wants our county to be safe on and off the road. Please support us in our fight against distracted and impaired driving. For more information on how you or your loved ones can be educated on distracted driving, please visit the following websites: