Driving Instruction

Is It Illegal to Text and Drive in Virginia? Your Guide to the New Cell Phone Laws

August 2, 2021

Is It Illegal to Text and Drive in Virginia? Your Guide to the New Cell Phone Laws

Have you heard about the new Virginia cell phone driving laws that are now in effect?

As of January 2021, the hands-free law in VA makes holding a cellphone while driving illegal.

Distractions are everywhere and can prove dangerous for drivers and others on or near the road. Nine Americans die in a car accident caused by a distracted driver every day, and nearly one thousand more are injured. The new Virginia distracted driving law is in place to help cut down on these fatalities.

To stay safe on the road and avoid traffic violations from using your phone, you need to know the distracted driving laws in Virginia.

What do previous and current laws say?

Is it illegal to text and drive in Virginia?

What’s the penalty for holding your cell phone while driving in Virginia?

Keep reading to get answers to all these questions and learn about the new “cell phone while driving” laws in VA.

Previous Virginia Distracted Driving Laws

Virginia cell phone driving laws are extensive and date back to 2009.

Here’s a look at how distracted driving laws have progressed in Virginia:

  • 2009: Lawmakers banned texting and reading emails while driving. The only exceptions were for emergency responders and people reporting an accident.
  • 2013: Policymakers modified the 2009 law slightly. They made using a cell phone while driving a traffic infraction punishable by a $125 fine in Virginia. Multiple unpaid offenses could result in a suspended license.
  • 2014: The Virginia legislature made distracted driving a component of the driver's license exam. They also made it illegal for drivers to use a cell phone or any wireless device while driving their car.
  • 2018: Virginia lawmakers doubled fines for distracted driving in a work zone. They also made it unlawful for any driver to hold a communications device in their hand while in a work zone.

For the past 12 years, Virginia policymakers have tried to decrease cell phone distractions while driving. The new hands-free law in VA continues to take steps in this same direction.  

The New Virginia Cell Phone Driving Laws

Virginia lawmakers want to make roads safer and cut down on distracted driving. Distracted driving is anything that takes your attention away from the road. There are three types of distractions:

  • Manual
  • Visual
  • Cognitive

Using a phone to call or text someone while driving involves all three distractions—it’s the single most dangerous distraction.

The new Virginia distracted driving laws make it illegal to hold your phone while driving. It doesn’t matter where you are on the road or if you’re actively using your phone—if it’s in your hand, you can receive a traffic violation and a fine.

Here are some commonly asked questions about these new Virginia laws on holding cell phones while driving.

What Are The Consequences of Holding Your Phone While Driving?

All offenses are considered traffic infractions. You may receive demerit points on your driving record for a traffic infraction and must pay a fine to the state. If you incur too many demerit points, the DMV may suspend your license or require you to attend a driver improvement clinic.

Monetary fines are as follows:

  • A first offense is punishable by a fine of $125.
  • Subsequent offenses are punishable by fines of $250
  • Any violation in a highway work zone will lead to a fine of $250.

The bottom line is that holding your phone while driving in Virginia carries financial and future driving consequences.

Is it Illegal to Text and Drive in Virginia?

Yes, it is illegal to text and drive in Virginia. This restriction was included in the first cell phone law passed in Virginia in 2009.

Now, it’s illegal even to hold your phone in your hand while you drive. You can still use your phone while in your car if:

  • You have a hands-free device, like a bluetooth device.
  • You mount your phone on the dashboard for calls or GPS.
  • You pull off the road or park.

However, you can’t have your phone in your hand when you’re actively driving.

Are There any Exceptions to this New Distracted Driving Law in Virginia?

There are some exceptions to this new law.

The four major exceptions are:

  1. Emergency responders engaged in official duties
  2. A driver who is parked or at a complete stop
  3. Someone calling in an emergency
  4. A Department of Transportation employee managing a traffic-related incident

Other than these four reasons, a driver can’t hold their phone while driving.

How You Can Avoid Distracted Driving

Phones have become a necessary part of our lives and can be beneficial in case of emergency. However, this new distracted driving law is to be taken seriously.

Since you’ll most likely keep your phone with you every time you drive, here are some tips to help you avoid distracted driving:

  1. Keep up to date on the laws since they may change or be modified.
  2. Get a hands-free device that allows you to use your phone, like a bluetooth device or car mount.
  3. Don’t look at your device when you are in heavy traffic or executing a turn.
  4. Pull off to the side of the ride or find a place to park before using your phone.
  5. If someone else is in the car with you, allow them to respond to text messages or answer calls.
  6. Before you hit the road, check your phone for any text messages. Respond to your messages before you drive or after you get to your destination.
  7. Activate automated messages that are sent to people when they message you while you’re driving for your Andriod or iPhone.

You may come up with your own way of removing distractions when you drive, but this list should help you begin the process of eliminating distractions.

Learn to Drive Safely in Virginia

The new “cell phone while driving” laws are now in effect in Virginia. These Virginia cell phone driving laws build on the rules put in place over the last 12 years. Initially, it was illegal to respond to text messages or emails. The new law passed in January 2021 makes holding your cell phone while driving in Virginia illegal.

Virginia cell phone distracted driving violations are considered traffic violations. First offenses come with a $125 fine and negative points on your driving record. Each subsequent violation carries a $250 penalty as well as demerit points. If you acquire too many demerit points, the DMV may suspend your license.

You can cut down on distracted driving by:

  • Looking at your phone before you drive and after you arrive at your destination
  • Allowing someone else in the car to respond to your messages or call
  • Purchasing a hands-free device or car mount
  • Stopping or parking before using your phone

Ultimately, driving laws are in place to keep you and everyone else safe.

Colonial Driving School in Richmond, VA has been helping students and experienced drivers better understand safety on the road. Whether you’re a high school student looking to get your license or an adult who wants to improve your driving skills, we have the classes for you. All our courses are DMV-approved, and our instructors ensure you get the most up-to-date driving instruction.

Take our quiz to find out which class is suitable for you. We’re excited to help you get or stay on the road safely!