Few Tickets Written for Texting and Driving in First Weeks of Law

[image]

Police now have the power to write you a ticket if they see you texting while driving.

A new law making it a primary offense took effect three weeks ago.

It will cost you a lot more, as well, but not many people in southwest Virginia are paying because officers haven't written many tickets.

It's rare these days you head out onto the road and not see someone staring down at their phone or typing on it, so you might think law enforcement would be having a field day writing tickets.

So far, though, the exact opposite has been true.

Local officers and prosecutors tell us the law is coming from a very good place, but they're finding it's tricky to enforce.

We checked in with several police departments across the viewing area to see what some of the early numbers look like.

During the first full week the law was in effect, most of them did not issue a single ticket.

Roanoke County police issued two, both of which they tell us were written by officers in unmarked cars.

One of the bigger issues they've discovered is that officers can't see cell phones from far away, and by the time a driver is close enough to them, they've already caught a glimpse of the police car and have put the phone down.

Roanoke City Commonwealth's Attorney Don Caldwell notes that the law has several exceptions, like dialing a number or using your phone as a GPS device.

And once a case comes to court, it's up to his staff to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a driver was actually texting and breaking the law.

He says that may require searching the phone, which they'd need a search warrant to do, and that's a lot of time and paperwork when the ultimate outcome is a traffic fine.

"Good legislation, many times, takes several years to actually reach the form where it's the most effective," Caldwell says.

On the flip side, Caldwell says this law will be very useful in cases where texting while driving has caused a serious crash or death because in those instances, they would obtain search warrants for the phone.

And the law stiffens the penalties for those drivers who are convicted.

He also says he's hopeful the threat of getting pulled over may deter people from making the decision to text and drive.


© Copyright 2000 - 2014 WorldNow and WFXR