Cracking down on texting while driving
Members of the House and Senate are optimistic that at least some of the 10 bills to crack down on texting while driving will make it past the legislative deadline called crossover day.
At the start of the session, three such bills were filed in the Senate bills and seven in the House. If a bill has not made it out of the House or Senate by Tuesday, it is left on table for the year. Beginning Wednesday, the House can consider only bills approved by the Senate, and the Senate can consider only legislation passed by the House.
Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria, is the chief patron of two of the Senate bills. He is hopeful the legislation will make it past crossover.
“We have been trying this for a few years and have been gradually making progress. I think the odds look good this year,” Barker said.
Last year, his bill to increase the penalties for texting while driving passed the Senate but died in the House Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee.
This year, Barker is sponsoring Senate Bill 1160, which would increase the fine for texting while driving to $200 for a first offense and $500 dollars for a second offense. (The existing penalties are $20 for a first offense and $50 for subsequent offense. They were set in 2009 when the General Assembly passed the current law against texting while driving.)
SB 1160 also would make texting while driving a primary offense. Currently, it is a secondary offense, meaning drivers can be charged only if they have been stopped for another violation.
Barker’s other bill, SB 1238, would make texting while driving punishable as reckless driving. Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg, has a similar proposal, SB 1222.
All three Senate bills will be heard in Senate Courts of Justice Committee on Monday [Feb. 4]. If approved by the committee, they will go to the full Senate.
The seven House bills have been folded into one – HB 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge.
HB 1907 mirrors Barker’s bill: It would make texting while driving a primary offense and drastically increase the fines for an infraction. Anderson said this could be the year such a bill passes.
“It has a strong support, and a lot of people are committed to it. In prior years, there wasn’t as much focus on how much of a real danger this is,” he said.
Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax, said a recent event had a strong influence on the General Assembly’s attitude toward texting – a “tragedy to the highest extreme.”
In May 2011, Kyle Rowley, a college student, was killed by man presumed to be texting while driving in Fairfax County. When the case went to trial this past September, the judged dropped the reckless driving charge against the driver. The reason: The penalty for texting while driving is $20, and the offense counts as a minor traffic infraction. The judge ruled that it could not count as reckless driving.
“The situation was shocking to the General Assembly. We were appalled,” Bulova said. “You could see why the judge would rule that way. He wasn’t wrong; we were.”
On Friday, the House Courts of Justice Committee unanimously approved HB 1907. It is now before the full House of Delegates.
Bulova hopes the bipartisan support in the House and Senate will make 2013 the year Virginia targets texting while driving.
“We want to send a strong message that it is the driver’s primary responsibility to pay attention and monitor themselves while they drive,” he said.
The status of anti-texting bills
Here are the bills that would increase the penalties for texting while driving:
In the House, the main bill is HB 1907, proposed by Delegate Rich Anderson, R-Woodbridge. The full House of Delegates is scheduled to vote on the proposal. Six bills have been incorporated into this legislation. They are:
HB 1357, by Delegate Thomas Rust, R-Herndon
HB 1360, by Delegate Benjamin Cline, R-Amherst
HB 1495, by Delegate Rosalyn Dance, D-Petersburg
HB 1540, by Delegate Vivian Watts, D-Annandale
HB 1848, by Delegate G. Manoli Loupassi, R-Richmond
HB 1883, by Delegate David Bulova, D-Fairfax
In the Senate, three bills are before the Senate Courts of Justice Committee. They are SB 1160 and SB 1238, by Sen. George Barker, D-Alexandria; and SB 1222, by Sen. Thomas Norment, R-Williamsburg.
Henrico's Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is one of only 20 gardens in North America nominated for USA Today’s “10Best Reader’s Choice” contest for Best Public Garden.
The 20 public gardens nominated are:
• Bloedel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, Wash.
• Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York
• Buthcart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.
• Callaway Gardens, Pine Mountain, Ga. > Read more.
Photo by Patty Kruszewski/Henrico Citizen 02/24/2014
The Fifth Annual Henrico Police Athletic League (PAL) Award Banquet, held Feb. 6 at The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, honored HPAL’s top volunteers and employees, including Morgan Lewis, Youth of the Year; Dale Alexander, Volunteer of the Year; Lowell Thomas, Employee of the Year, and Victor Williams, Board Member of the Year. Also honored for their support were Jim and Christi Dowd of Richmond BMW and Josh Davis of Henrico County Public Schools Pupil Transportation.
Keynote speaker for the banquet was Tim Hightower, a University of Richmond alumnus and former NFL running back. Hightower was introduced by Billy McMullen, former NFL player and a Henrico PAL board member. > Read more.
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The National Society Daughters of American Colonists is a women’s genealogical and patriotic society whose members are descended from a man or woman who rendered civil or military service in any of the American colonies prior to July 4, 1776. > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
The Henrico County Division of Recreation and Parks has several events to offer residents this weekend! Do you have what it takes to be a volunteer at Meadow Farm Museum? Learn more about the African Americans who served in the Union Army during the Civil War at Dabbs House Museum, or check out the Henrico County Adventure Series. The Division of Fire will dedicate the new Fire Station #7 this weekend as well. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
But animated South African film has its moments
You might have seen something called Khumba while clicking through a Redbox recently (or perhaps it was nestled in some hidden corner of a DVD sale shelf). And chances are, you passed it by without much of a thought. Makes sense; that goggle-eyed cartoon zebra on the cover (a zebra that’s dangerously close to becoming Madagascar copyright infringement) doesn’t inspire much confidence.
But when Khumba starts up, it looks nothing like you’d expect. The camera gazes across the savannah and the soundtrack swells with triumphant South African vocals. > Read more.
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