Staunton police report more citations of hands-free law violations than surrounding areas

Published: Nov. 12, 2021 at 5:54 PM EST
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - People using a cell phone while driving has been an issue for years.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reports 80 percent of all crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds of a crash.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,142 people were killed in 2019 due to distracted driving.

It’s now been almost a year since Virginia’s hands-free law went into effect, making it illegal to hold a communications device in your hand while driving.

Police have been enforcing the law to make the roads in the Valley safer.

In Waynesboro, police have not had any tickets so far related to the hands-free charge, but noted traffic stops in general have gone down 22 percent since last year. Crashes are down 4 percent and tickets are down 25 percent.

The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office has cited seven people since January.

“Distracted driving is an issue and it will always be an issue regardless of what the law is, due to the radio, phones, conversations in the vehicle, road conditions, etc. No matter how much the legislators modify the law, it will always be an issue. We are in the middle of a pandemic. The Commonwealth of Virginia has a mental health crisis that is very manpower-intensive. The Augusta County Sheriff’s Office is experiencing a manpower shortage, similar to other law enforcement agencies across the country. The law changed in July of this year, and the Augusta County Sheriff’s office is trying to inform citizens about this new law, and give them time to adjust accordingly. This is not our highest priority with the multitude of task that the deputies have daily,” Sheriff Donald Smith said in a statement.

Staunton Police have given 36 citations, along with 25 documented warnings.

“We still see people on their phones all the time. Personally, going out for dinner last night, I passed every bit of 10 cars between here and Waynesboro with people on their phones, and it’s just such a safety hazard,” Sgt. Butch Shifflett with the Staunton Police Department said. “During that time, a child could come out in front of you on the road way, someone could ride out on their bicycle, anything could happen in that timeframe. Especially this time of the year with deer... You just need to put all your focus on the driving.”

If you are caught using a phone while driving, it will cost you $125 on your first offense and $250 for any subsequent offense.

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