Effective January 1, 2021, there are new penalties for driving with a handheld personal communications device, including a cell phone.
According to the Code of Virginia:
It is unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth while using any handheld personal communications device to:
- Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
- Read any email or text message transmitted to the 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.
It is also unlawful for any person while driving a moving vehicle in a highway work zone to hold in his or her hand a personal communications device.
There are some limited exceptions for:
- The driver of any emergency vehicle while he or she is engaged in the performance of official duties
- A driver who is lawfully parked or stopped
- The use of factory-installed or aftermarket global positioning systems (GPS) or wireless communications devices used to transmit or receive data as part of a digital dispatch system; or
- Any person using a handheld personal communications device to report an emergency.
A first violation of driving with a handheld device is classified as a traffic infraction punishable by a $125 fine. A second or subsequent violation is punishable by a $250 fine.
Any violation of the highway work zone subsection is punishable by a mandatory fine of $250.