During this year’s Virginia General Assembly session, much of the media attention focused on the transportation bill, which provides mechanisms to generate new funds to address roadway and transit needs throughout the Commonwealth. What may have been missed, however, was a series of other changes regarding Title 18.2 and title 46.2 of the Code of Virginia, which also affect Chapter 82 of the Code of the County of Fairfax. One important change, which took effect on Monday, makes driving while texting a primary offense, and increases penalties for violations.
The state Code change provides that driving while texting is a traffic infraction. A first offense is punishable by a fine of $125; a second or subsequent offense is $250. Penalties were $20 and $50 respectively, so the new law has significant financial impact. A reckless driving conviction now includes a $250 mandatory minimum fine if the person was texting at the time of the offense. The new law also makes texting while driving a primary offense, which means that officers do not need another reason to stop drivers seen texting. However, according to information provided by the Virginia Department of Transportation, the new law does not apply to drivers of emergency vehicles, stopped vehicles, use of factory-installed GPS devices, or the use of handheld devices to report an emergency.
As a result of the amended state law, Fairfax County also must amend Chapter 82 of its Code. The Board of Supervisors will conduct a public hearing for the amendments to the Code at its meeting next Tuesday, July 9, at 4 p.m. Persons wishing to testify about the Code changes may register to speak by contacting the Clerk to the Board at 703-324-3151, or log on to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/speaker-bos.htm. Written testimony may be sent via the Web site. The provisions of the adopted amendments become effective immediately upon passage.
Thursday is Independence Day, a celebration of America’s history and heritage. This year’s observance also coincides with the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the American Civil War. As we celebrate our nation’s 237th birthday with flags and fireworks, let’s keep in mind the struggles, casualties, and deaths of that bloody battle that, fortunately, helped preserve our cherished Union. Those struggles continue today for our armed forces personnel stationed overseas to help other countries in their own search for independence. “Old Glory” soars over all, with its familiar 50 stars and 13 stripes – red for courage, white for purity, blue for courage – and provides another unifying factor for all of us. No matter where or how often I see our flag and its unique design, no matter how often I recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” anthem, I am always grateful, and perhaps a little emotional, about all it represents, and how fortunate we are to live in this great country and community. Happy 4th of July!