The ordinance went into effect as soon as it was voted on, and the fine for first offense is $125.
“A police officer has to see the cellphone in the driver’s hand and display visible signs of distracted driving,” said Robin McCormick, the city’s spokeswoman.
McCormick said the city ultimately wants people to be safe and the ordinance was initiated by the police department.
However, there are exceptions.
The city’s law doesn’t apply to drivers who are parked or are using a cellphone in regards to an emergency, such as reporting an incident or using a radio during a disaster. Read more about the ordinance here.
People driving emergency vehicles and other drivers who are parked, using a phone to report an emergency or a handheld device during a disaster are exempt from the law.
What makes this different from texting while driving?
Driving while distracted would be an extra charge — if a driver ran a stop sign and was distracted by a handheld device or cellphone, McCormick said.
Per state law, using handheld devices while driving only applies to people who are texting or sending emails.
Another state code that may apply to distracted drivers falls under reckless driving.
A driver charged with reckless driving can be fined up to $2,500 or get 12 months in jail, said Sgt. Brandon Maynard, assistant public information officer from the Newport News Police Department
Maynard said officers has to prove the driver was looking at his or her cellphone before they can be charged with texting and driving.
“People can’t text at stop signs,” he said. “You still have control of your vehicle.”
As far as Maynard knows, he doesn’t think the department is coordinating with Hampton Police at this time.
Hampton Police was in the middle of a homicide investigation Wednesday and could immediately be reached for comment.
Meanwhile, several state legislators including Del. Chris Collins and state Sen. Richard Stuart have sponsored a bipartisan bill, HB1811/SB1341, with the support of DRIVE SMART Virginia which was make it illegal to use handheld devices while driving, except for in emergency situations.