It is a problem that has gotten out of hand, not just in Richmond or Henrico, but everywhere. And you can’t put the blame on any one age group either. As a matter of fact, teenage drivers are, by state law not even allowed to use a cell phone for talking or texting while behind the wheel of a car. Senior citizens, 40-somethings, 20-somethings, and all ages in between, we see them at the stoplights, rolling down the street, and haphazzardly pulling into parking lots; one hand holding the little electronic wonder to their ear, while trying to drive and steer with one hand on the steering wheel. If one were to question this behavior, the only thing you could ask would be, “What is so important that it can’t wait until you get where you’re going to talk on the phone?”
AAA Statistics on cell phones
The American Automobile Association has put together a concise report on cell phone laws in all the 50 states and the U.S. Territories. Under the specific laws for cell phone use, two types of violations are used in law enforcement; Primary and secondary enforcement. Primary enforcement means that the violator is subject to a fine and/or jail time for the offense. They could also lose their driving permit. Secondary enforcement means that a violator would be ticketed and pay a fine. The AAA also works in close conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA is instumental in keeping abreast of new studies and research on data used for enforcement of highway safety laws and helps, along with AAA in on site studies in driver safety, remedial defensive driving clinics and other programs pertaining to teaching safe-driving habits.
Drivers 65 and over
AAA and the NHTSA have both compiled studies focusing on older drivers across the country. Figures show that in 2008 there were approximately 32.2 million drivers aged 65 and over. With the aging of the ‘baby boomers’, that figure is expected to rise to over 40 million by 2020. It is a known fact that aging slows response time, visual acuity declines, and our general health starts to slow down. Taking these factors into account, defensive driving courses on site and on-line are proliferating. And pamplets and other readable materials are being made up to get to seniors so that they will be aware of the laws governing the use of cell phones, and other rules of the road. It is always good to brush up on the law, no matter what your age.
Studies on cell phone use while driving
Four studies have been cited pertaining to the use of cell phones while driving. The general consensus after reviewing the data was that cell phone use did prove to be a distraction, even when using a hands-free device. The studies are as follows:
- Virginia Tech. Study; Determined that hands-free systems may be beneficial.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety: All cell phone use distracting
- The University of Utah Study: All cell phone use distracting
- Carnegie Mellon Study: All cell phone use distracting
Cell phone use laws in Virginia
Virginia does not ban the use of hand-held cell phones, except for school bus drivers while behind the wheel of a bus, and teenaged drivers. For bus drivers, violations are a primary offense, and for teenagers it is a secondary offense.Texting is banned across the board for all licensed drivers, school bus drivers and teenaged drivers. Law enforcement has changed their accident report forms to include information on the use of cell phones in accidents and crashes. This data will be used to compile reports that the state can use in making future laws involving cell phones. For your information, when driving in Washington D.C. be sure to turn your cell phone off and put it in the glove box or your purse. Any use of a cell phone is a primary enforcement violation.