New laws cracking down on distracted drivers

Virginia drivers: What you need to know before July 1

By Lindsey Kennett - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - Police say drivers hitting the road in Virginia need to put down their phones and pay attention.

Two new laws take effect Monday, July 1 to crack down on distracted driving and promote safety on the streets.

Bedford County mom Krystal Mills said distracted driving is worse than ever, since cellphones are a lifeline to friends, family, information and directions, just a touch away.

"You think that you can take your eyes off the road for a few seconds, but honestly, in a second your whole life can change," Mills said.

Starting Monday, if you're driving through a highway work zone, police said drivers better have both hands on the wheel and eyes on the road. A new law is doubling the fine to $250 for drivers who violate the hands-free law.

"No cellphone use whether you're talking on it, texting, looking at emails, pictures," said Roanoke City police Officer Kenny Wilkerson. "If you're touching the phone at all, you cannot do that in a work zone."

Last year, there were more than 2,500 work zone crashes in Virginia. There were 1,256 injuries and nine people were killed. VDOT officials said distracted driving was a leading cause.

"Statistics show that it's usually the driver or their passengers that are usually injured or killed in our work zones," said Jason Bond, a VDOT spokesperson.

Drivers will also face steeper fines for not moving over if a vehicle with flashing red, blue or amber lights is stopped on the side of a road. That includes police cars, fire trucks or tow trucks.

If drivers can't safely move over a lane, they will have to slow down or else they could be charged with reckless driving and face a $250 fine.

"In order to make changes, sometimes you have to drop the hammer," Mills said.

Another woman who just moved to Roanoke, Kevonne Fields, said drivers should always move over, no matter who is on the side of the road. Her friend was seriously hurt in a crash and her leg had to be amputated.

"I am very, you know, vigilant on what's going on on the road, whether it's local or on the highway and I think that we all should be able to do the same thing," Fields said.

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