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Virginia looks to change law to crack down on texting and driving

By Megan Brantley, mbrantley@wcyb.com
Published On: Feb 20 2013 04:55:28 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 21 2013 05:18:56 PM CST

The next time you go to text while driving, you may want to think twice.

WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. -

The next time you go to text while driving, you may want to think twice.

Traffic stats show nearly 25 percent of all crashes are caused by using cell phones. Now some lawmakers say bigger fines may be what it takes to put the brakes on texting while driving.

Texting while driving takes place with nearly 800,000 drivers at any given second. That statistic shows it can be addictive; for many it’s hard not to give in to a text. "What if the text message is important? You never know unless you answer it to see," said Alesha Russell.

"I want to know what it is, it's that curiosity. I can't help it," said Zoe Fink.

The National Safety Ad Council said 1.6 million people crash every year due to text-related accidents, with 300,000 being injured.

Virginia is working to change its law to make texting while driving a primary offense -- that means you can be pulled over if an officer observes you texting at the wheel.

They say talk is cheap, but not in this case. A bill awaiting the Governor of Virginia's signature raises fees for the offense dramatically. A first-time offense used to cost you $20, it could go to $250; second offense, try $500. "I think by putting some teeth into that law by hitting people in the pocketbook, that will hopefully make a difference," said Washington County Sheriff Fred Newman.

Russell tells us she limits the time she spends looking at her phone while driving. "I at least give it one to two seconds. I look up and then look down one to two seconds every time," said Russell.    

However, even a few seconds could be a few too many. Five seconds is the minimal amount of time your attention is taken away from the road when you're texting and driving. We learned if you're traveling at 55 mph, that equals driving the length of a football field without looking at the road.

This makes you 23 times more likely to have a crash.

"You just have to know when and where to do it, and certainly driving is not the place to do it," said Sheriff Newman.

We checked and found out Tennessee has similar laws. It is a primary offense and you could be ticketed up to $50.