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Loudoun County Attorneys > Blog > Distracted Driving > What Qualifies as Distracted Driving in Virginia?

What Qualifies as Distracted Driving in Virginia?


Distracted driving is the source of many automotive accidents across the Commonwealth of Virginia every year. Despite the inherent dangers, many drivers continue to send messages and check status updates while driving a vehicle. That is why Virginia instituted laws against and penalties for distracted driving. When a person uses their cell phone while driving in Virginia, they are guilty of a traffic violation and subject to a hefty fine.

Laws Against Distracted Driving

The state-specific laws against distracted driving appear in Code of Virginia Section 46.2-1078.1. This section makes it illegal in Virginia to operate a motor vehicle while using a handheld communications device, such as a cell phone.

In specific terms, Section 46.2-1078.1 makes it unlawful to operate a motor vehicle and:

  • Send letters or text to another person using a personal communications device; or
  • Read text message or email on a personal communications device.

On the other hand, Section 46.2-1078.1 does permit drivers to operate a motor vehicle and:

  • Review names or numbers stored within a personal communications device; or
  • Read caller identification information displayed on a personal communications device.

Overall, Virginia law severely restricts the ability to use a personal communications device while operating motor vehicles.

Exceptions to Distracted Driving Laws

Section 46.2-1078.1 also details several exceptions to Virginia’s distracted driving laws. This section does not apply to:

  • Operators of emergency vehicles during the performance of their official duties;
  • Drivers who are parked or stopped in a legal manner;
  • Using wireless communication devices for digital dispatch purposes; or
  • Reporting emergencies with personal communications devices.

Outside of the exceptions listed above, Virginia law prohibits drivers from using personal communications devices while operating motor vehicles.

Penalties for Distracted Driving

The penalties for distracted driving in Virginia also appear in Section 46.2-1078.1. Typically, state law classifies distracted driving as a mere traffic infraction, punishable only by a fine. Though as highlighted below, the fine does change based on various factors. For example:

  • First Offense — Distracted driving is punishable by $125 in fines; or
  • Second or Subsequent Offense — Distracted driving is punishable by $250 in fines.

Section 46.2-1078.1 further outlines a distinct penalty for distracted driving in highway work zones. When a person commits distracted driving in such a zone — marked by appropriate signs, lights, or other devices — there is a mandatory fine of $250.

It is vital to note that the penalties for distracted driving can increase exponentially if a person causes property damage, physical injury, or death. In those cases, the driver can face misdemeanor or felony charges and the real possibility of jail time.

Do You Need Legal Help?

If you suffered harm or incurred property damage as a result of a distracted driver in Virginia, it can be tremendously beneficial to consult with a talented Leesburg distracted driving lawyer. The lawyers at Simms Showers LLP have experience with many types of automotive accidents, including those caused by distracted drivers. If you need legal help with personal injury, contact us today for a free initial consultation.

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