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Virginia lawmakers say driving deaths increased between 2016 and 2017, the first time such an increase has been seen in the state in more than 40 years. What could the cause be? Unless you’ve been staring exclusively at your phone while driving, you likely know the answer: drivers staring exclusively at their phones while driving. Distracted driving has become such a public safety issue that lawmakers across the country (and world) have begun introducing new legislation to combat screen time while driving. The new proposed law in Virginia might be intended to save lives, but some drivers still aren’t happy about it. Can’t we just put our phones down for a minute? Is it really that important?
Virginia House Bill 181 was introduced by Democrat delegate Mike Mullin, who says the problem of distracted driving has gotten much worse in the last several years to the point where many drivers seem completely oblivious to the dangers they are creating themselves and other drivers. “You see people who are so knee-deep into their phones that there’s no way they can see what’s going on and that’s what we’re trying to talk about here,” Mullins told WAVY-TV.
The bill would fine drivers $500 any time they used their phones while driving in a way that “substantially diverts attention.” Some Virginians feel the law is ambiguous and will give law enforcement far too much room for arbitrary enforcement. Still, given that the National Safety Council estimates that at least one in four crashes are caused by distracted driving, something must be done. HB181 has already cleared its proposing committee in the Virginia house and is waiting a final vote.
Are stricter laws like these what states need to turn the tide back against distracted driving, or should we all just hope for the best and wait for autonomous vehicles to arrive?