Lawmakers to consider making cell phone use while driving illegal

Photo Credit: WKBN

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Texting while driving has been illegal for years, but one state lawmaker wants to make all cell phone use illegal while operating a vehicle.

It’s been more than five years since 19-year-old Kyle Rowley was killed in Fairfax County after a driver hit him while he was pushing his disabled car onto the shoulder.

The driver was not speeding and was not drunk, but police believe he was texting on his phone right before he hit Rowley.

Rowley’s story is part of what prompted lawmakers to make texting while driving laws tougher in Virginia, but some say it hasn’t been enough.

“Last year we know that we saw the largest one-year increase in traffic fatalities in 50 years,” Janet Brooking with Drive Smart Virginia explained.

Brooking says while the laws in the state have gotten stronger, fatalities continue to rise. According to DMV, there were 173 distracted driving fatalities last year, compared to 156 the year before.

“We know for a fact that cars are getting safer and safer. Our roadways are safer, but yet our fatalities are increasing. What’s the common denominator in all that? It’s the driver.” Brooking said.

Brooking supports a measure that would make it illegal to use your cell phone while driving unless you’re using Bluetooth or have your phone mounted for GPS. Failing to do so could result in a reckless driving charge.

Brooking says she believes drivers don’t take the state’s current law seriously.

“They’re trying to do more things behind the wheel. They think they’re invincible they don’t take the issue seriously,” said Brooking.

She says if most cell phone use becomes illegal, it would deter drivers from using them.

“I absolutely and firmly believe if we had a strong law that usage would decrease and lives would be saved,” said Brooking.

A full copy of the bill lawmakers will consider when they come to Richmond next week can be found here.