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Va. to consider tougher laws on texting while driving

Tuesday - 12/4/2012, 12:04pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Efforts to make texting while driving a crime in Virginia, similar to laws Maryland and D.C., may be making some headway.

Currently, typing on your smartphone while the behind the wheel in Virginia can get you only a $25 fine and even then its a secondary offense. That means a police officer has to have another reason for pulling a driver over before he can be cited for texting.

But when the General Assembly reconvenes in January there may be five or six bills to change that.

"As more and more accidents start to happen, I think people are realizing just how dangerous this behavior is," says Delegate Scott Surovell, D-Mt Vernon.

Surovell plans to introduce legislation that will give judges more leeway.

"There are many judges in this state who refuse to convict people for reckless driving for texting, if that's the only driving behavior because the General Assembly has said the maximum penalty for that is a $25 fine," he says.

Surovell proposes a reckless driving charge for any accident where it can be proven the driver was texting.

But there is debate on whether to include other types of distracted driving, like adjusting a GPS system or putting on makeup in the legislation and that could complicate efforts to pass any legislation.

The Virginia State Crime Commission will also review the issue on Wednesday.

Texting while driving is banned in both D.C. and Maryland and violations are primary offenses that in certain circumstances can lead to jail time.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)