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Put down the phone: The cell phone ban starts in January

Staring in January, Virginia residents won't be able to hold their cell phone while driving. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Unsplash)
Staring in January, Virginia residents won’t be able to hold their cell phone while driving. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Unsplash)

Residents in the Historic Triangle won’t be able to hold their cell phone while driving starting Jan. 1.

Come the new year, a new law goes into effect which prohibits people from holding their cell phone while driving and other personal communications  devices.

Virginia had previously banned texting while driving, reading or responding to emails and using a cell phone in a work zone. Gov. Ralph Northam signed the new law, which started in July, but will now be reinforced in the new year.

Residents planning to take the driver’s license exams can expect a segment on distracted driving, too.

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But there are some exceptions to the bill such as law enforcement, firefighters, emergency medical services and transportation workers.

The state code notes those who operate an “emergency vehicle in the performance of his official duties” including emergency management and department of corrections vehicles responding to an emergency or pursuing inmates who have escaped are also exempt.

“A violation of this section is a traffic infraction punishable, for a first offense, by a fine of $125 and, for a second or subsequent offense, by a fine of $250,” according to the state code section. “If a violation of this section occurs in a highway work zone, it shall be punishable by a mandatory fine of $250.”

In addition, the new law does not apply to anyone who is “lawfully parked or stopped” and anyone who is using their cellphone to report an emergency.

The York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office shared a Facebook post on Dec. 14 reminding residents about the new law. The next day, they updated the social media post with some additional information about the “lawfully parked or stopped” portion of the new law.

“It is the Sheriff’s interpretation of the law that being stopped at a traffic light/signal is “stopped” as written in the code section.,” according to the YPSO’s updated Facebook post on Dec. 15. “While that is our opinion, the opinion of Law Enforcement agencies in other jurisdictions may differ.”

Sheriff’s update to this post that we shared yesterday…

Beginning January 1, 2021, it will be illegal to hold a phone…

Posted by York-Poquoson Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday, December 15, 2020

It is not clear if stopping at a traffic signal is considered a vehicle being lawfully stopped.

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Julia Marsiglianohttp://wydaily.com
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to julia@localvoicemedia.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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