The dangers of texting and driving are far-reaching. Severe and often life-changing legal penalties alone should be a strong disincentive. But factor in the human suffering, economic blowback, and emotional distress a crash can cause, and the consequences of texting while driving are too significant to ignore.
The message should be clear: no text is worth the risk. Keeping Virginia’s streets safe is a shared responsibility. One that begins with putting the phone down, ignoring distractions, and focusing solely on driving.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Texting While Driving in Virginia?
Here’s a closer look at the potential legal outcomes drivers who text on Virginia’s roads might face.
Fines and Points on Your Driving Record
Texting while driving in Virginia is a primary offense. This means a police officer can pull you over and cite you even if you’re not committing any other traffic violations. The fine for a first-time offender is $125, increasing to $250 for repeat offenses. The state may also add points to your driving record, leading to increased insurance premiums.
Reckless Driving Charges
If texting leads to erratic driving behavior, such as swerving or speeding, the state may also charge you with reckless driving. In Virginia, reckless driving is a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A conviction for reckless driving also adds six demerit points to your driving record and could result in a license suspension.
Vehicular Assault or Manslaughter
If texting while driving results in an accident that seriously injures or kills someone, you could face felony charges, including vehicular assault or manslaughter. These offenses could lead to substantial prison time, heavy fines, and the state revoking your driving privileges for up to 12 months.
Apart from criminal charges, if texting causes an accident, victims may sue you in a civil lawsuit. The injured parties may seek compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages, potentially costing you millions of dollars in legal fees and settlements.
Additional Consequences for Commercial Drivers
If you have a commercial driver’s license, penalties can be even more severe, including potentially losing your license to drive a commercial vehicle.
What Are the Dangers of Distracted Driving?
The three main types of distracted driving are manual, visual, and cognitive. When drivers are visually distracted, they take their eyes off the road. This includes looking at billboards, the dashboard, or a cell phone. During manual distraction, a driver’s hand comes off the wheel, for example, when eating, drinking, or texting. Cognitive distraction happens when a driver’s brain simultaneously works on two mental tasks, such as driving and talking on the phone. In the case of texting while driving, visual, manual, and cognitive distractions combine, making texting a dangerous trifecta of distractions.
In all types of driving while distracted, common dangers include:
- Impaired reaction time. Distracted driving can lead to delayed reaction times when unexpected events occur on the road, such as sudden stops, sharp turns, or unanticipated obstacles.
- Reduced situational awareness. Distracted drivers are less aware of their surroundings, including the behavior of other drivers, traffic signals, and road conditions. This leads to poor decisions like failing to yield the right-of-way, running a red light, or failing to notice a pedestrian crossing the street.
- Poor vehicle control. Distracted driving can result in less vehicle control, leading to swerving, erratic braking, or sudden acceleration, all of which are dangerous in a traffic environment.
- Greater crash severity. When a crash occurs, a distracted driver may not have as much time to brake or maneuver to lessen the impact, leading to more severe crashes and injuries.
- Endangering vulnerable road users. Distracted drivers threaten vulnerable pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists with a higher risk of severe injury.
While the most drastic outcome of texting and other types of distracted driving involves accidents with other vehicles or pedestrians, distracted driving can also lead to accidents like sideswiping a parked car, colliding with a stationary object, or losing control of your vehicle, leading to a rollover accident.
What is the Human Impact of Distracted Driving?
Accidents involving texting and other distractions can result in driver injuries, from bruises and broken bones to life-changing amputations and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). People suffering from injuries may also require surgery and extended rehabilitation or become permanently disabled, affecting their quality of life.
But it’s not just the texting driver that’s affected. Innocent people sharing the road also suffer. Victims of accidents caused by distracted drivers can have debilitating injuries that require long-term care, expensive medical treatments, and extended time off work. Victims and their families may also have the right to sue for damages, creating a potential financial calamity for the texting driver. Moreover, if the driver causes a fatality, they face the lifelong emotional and psychological toll of knowing their actions killed someone.
Even when a distracted driving accident doesn’t result in injuries, it can have significant economic consequences. Accidents usually result in varying degrees of property destruction. Vehicle repairs or replacement and other property damage are expensive. If someone sues you, lawsuit costs for legal representation, court fees, and other out-of-pocket expenses can add up. And that’s just the beginning, as the economic costs of distracted driving also often include medical bills, higher insurance premiums, and the potential loss of income.
Contact The Law Firm of Carlton F. Bennett, PLLC Today
If you are in an accident and need an experienced lawyer, the skilled personal injury attorneys at The Law Firm of Carlton F. Bennett, PLLC, can help. With a focus on cases involving auto accidents, medical malpractice, nursing home malpractice, and traumatic brain injuries, we pride ourselves on a legacy of excellence. We’ve set the gold standard in Virginia’s personal injury law landscape for nearly five decades. Serious injuries are our business, and our unparalleled success and proven track record include the largest jury verdict in Norfolk. If you need the best, contact us for a free consultation.