Virginia Delegate Cline has introduced a proposed texting while driving bill to amend reckless driving to include using a mobile communications device while operating a vehicle. But that would create an overbroad expansion of reckless driving.
Some of our legislators apparently equate using a cell phone with failure to maintain control of your vehicle. The problem is that Cline’s bill chose the word “using”. Anyone who is using any kind of mobile device in their car while they’re the operator of the car would be a criminal, guilty of a misdemeanor reckless driving.
It makes me wonder if Delegate Cline uses his radio while driving in the car. Many smart phone users use Internet radio on their phone while driving in the car and that’s exactly the same principle as using your car’s built-in radio. However, simply because the radio is coming through your smart phone while you’re driving you would be guilty of reckless driving under that version of Delegate Cline’s bill. But the person who’s using their built-in car radio or their XM radio in the vehicle would not be guilty of reckless driving. The same goes for navigation devices. If you’re using a navigation app on your smart phone, even if it’s in a mount and hands free, you would be guilty of reckless driving simply for using that GPS navigation.
The problem really is that the legislators are ignoring the actual problem with texting or using a phone while driving. The real risk is when people are not actually maintaining control of their vehicle. If someone is swerving all over the road or actually causes an accident that’s obviously a problem and should be punished. However, the bill in question specifically exempts a verbal conversation. If you’re on your phone talking to someone and cause and accident and kill a pedestrian you’re not guilty under this version of reckless driving. Now there’d maybe be arguments that you can still be found guilty but this version specifically exempts verbal communication so it’s not looking at whether or not the driver was actually districted or actually caused an accident or didn’t maintain their lane of travel or something. It’s solely looking at if you’re using a car phone or a mobile communications device for something other than verbal communication, and it will create very unforeseen and unjust outcomes with this kind of a broad law.
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