Hillsville Police Department Chief Wesley Yonce and his department are planning on reinforcing the adage “Drive now. Text later” on local roads. Information concerning the Commonwealth’s Code on using handheld communications devices in certain motor vehicles was given to media present at the Town Council’s August 14 regular meeting.
According to this code, aimed at texting while driving, it is unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways while using the device to manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person.
It is also unlawful “to read any email or text message transmitted to the (handheld) device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information.” (Novice drivers in Virginia are reminded drivers who are age 18 years and younger cannot use a cell phone in any way while driving.)
Violations of this section of the Code are a traffic infraction punishable by a $125 fine for a first offense. A second or subsequent offense is punishable by a fine of $250.
Information supplied by Yonce indicates the texting while driving law does not apply to:
• Operators of any emergency vehicle engaged in the performance of official duties.
•A motor vehicle operator who is lawfully parked or stopped.
•Using a factory-installed or aftermarket (spare part or accessories) global positioning system (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system.
•Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.
The section defines “emergency vehicle” as any law-enforcement vehicle operated by or under the direction of a federal, state or local law-enforcement officer; any regional detention center vehicle operated by or under the direction of a correctional officer responding to an emergency call or operating in an emergency situation; any vehicle used to fight fire, including publicly-owned state forest warden vehicles when traveling in response to a fire alarm or emergency call.
This exemption would apply to emergency medical services vehicles designed or used for emergency medical services where human life is endangered; Department of Emergency Management vehicle or Office of Emergency Medical Services vehicle responding to an emergency call or operating in an emergency situation; any Department of Corrections vehicle so designated by the Director of the Department of Corrections responding to an emergency call at a correctional facility, participating in a drug-related investigation, pursuing escapees from a correctional facility or responding to a request for assistance from a law enforcement officer and any vehicle authorized to be equipped with alternating, blinking or flashing red or red and white secondary warning lights.
David Broyles may be reached at 276-779-4013 or on Twitter@CarrollNewsDave.