Truckers are more than familiar with the dangers of distracted driving. Every second your eyes aren’t on the road while driving increases your risk of collision, and trucks can do much damage with whatever they collide with.
But the trucking lifestyle can be dreary; it’s not unusual for a trucker to want to call their family after long periods away from home. You might think it’s okay to whip out your smartphone to sneak in a quick call while driving, especially if the highway is light on traffic and you think you won’t collide with any other vehicle. But know that even if there is no crash risk, an officer can still catch you for using your phone while driving and charge you with a traffic offense.
State law on phone use while driving
According to Virginia law, drivers of any vehicle – whether private or commercial – are prohibited from holding a handheld personal communications device while on state highways. Notably, this rule doesn’t prohibit truckers from using their citizens band radios, as truckers often use the devices to coordinate among themselves.
There are some exceptions to this rule. Operators of emergency vehicles are exempt from the restriction, as are any drivers trying to report an emergency. Drivers who are lawfully parked are also exempt. And so are any state Department of Transportation vehicle operators.
Generally speaking, nobody is allowed to use their handheld devices while driving, barring official and emergency uses.
Penalties for phone usage while driving
If an officer pulls you over for using a phone while driving, they could cite you for a traffic infraction. For your first offense, you face a $125 fine. If you receive a second or subsequent offense, the fine increases to $250.
The fine is immediately upgraded to a mandatory $250 if the officer catches you using a phone while driving near a highway construction or maintenance zone. This is because of the additional crash risk involved.
In addition to the fines, the state Department of Motor Vehicles can assign three demerit points to your record, which can last three years from the date of the offense. If you commit other traffic offenses and collect enough demerit points, officials can suspend your driver’s license.
If an officer tickets you for using a phone while driving, you can challenge the infraction in court. Consider consulting with a legal professional to understand your options. An attorney can also represent you in the procedure and negotiate for lighter penalties.