Students driving on and off campus will soon find more trouble if their fingers are caught on their phone and not the wheel.
Yesterday, the Senate approved a House bill, formally known as HB 1907, by a 28-12 vote that would increase fines for texting while driving in the state of Virginia.
The bill, proposed by Rich Anderson (R-Prince William.), was compromised to create first offense fines of $250 and $500 fines for repeated offenses. This is a significant increase from the current law in place charging $20 for first offenses and $50 for following infractions.
However, not everyone is in favor of the steep change in fine prices.
"This should be the same as the harsher seatbelt laws," said Brice Moon, senior marketing major. "Give the ticket, but not a ridiculous $200 fine."
HB 1907 will give Virginia police the ability to pull a driver over for using their phone. Four years ago, secondary law stated that in order to charge a driver for a texting violation, it would have to be discovered after another traffic violation charge.
With the Virginia Tech Police Department’s strong presence on campus streets, students would be especially subject to the stronger penalties if it proceeds further.
“I definitely am going to start putting my phone out of reach when driving around, just to be safe,” said JP Theodorakos, sophomore international studies major.
The details of the legislation, however, are still in question. For example, determining the difference between text messaging versus other cell phone activities. Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell will scrutinize the bill’s nuances when it reaches his desk.
"I'm not opposed to the law, because it's less bad than in other states, where you can't even take a call on the road," said Becca Copeland, sophomore interior design major.
As it stands, drivers under the age of 18 and school bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones.
The Senate drafted a similar bill aimed at preventing texting and driving and has already been approved by both chambers this month. While less specific, the Senate bill will supplement the House bill as dual legislation. In addition, the two drafts incorporate a mass amount of proposed bills correcting existing cell phone laws.
Existing Virginia texting laws were highly scorned by law officials and citizens after an increasing number of preventable accidents. In 2011, an Alexandria man hit and killed a college student while allegedly texting. He was released without a reckless driving charge as per the minor cell phone infraction.
Students argue still, however, against the stringent law.
"I'll text without looking at the screen, and only when the roads are empty or when the light is red. I don't think I should be charged $200 for that," said senior Graham Millinder.