Don’t use a cellphone and drive: City ban takes effect on June 9
It will soon be illegal on Richmond streets to use a cellphone while driving.
The new city ordinance goes into effect Tuesday, June 9, more than six months ahead of a similar state law. It goes further than the current code, which only outlaws typing text or numbers into a phone while driving.
“There’s a lot of resources that compare distracted driving to drunk driving,” said Lt. Edward M. Capriglione, the officer in charge of Richmond Police Department’s Traffic Unit. “It’s a big problem. It’s an avoidable problem.”
Capriglione cited figures from 2018, the most recent data available, that showed about 18% — or some 1,100 — of the over 6,000 crashes in the city that year involved distracted driving. About 300 of those collisions caused injuries, and four were fatal.
Simply holding a phone while driving won’t be illegal, but any use or manipulation of it will. Even if the phone is in a hands-free cradle, Capriglione said, “but you’re manipulating or using it, either to put a map application together or just to communicate with somebody, that’s obviously causing you to take your attention off the road. Basically, any time an officer sees you using your phone while you’re driving, you put yourself in jeopardy of being cited for distracted driving.”
Legislators have called the current law unenforceable because drivers could legally still scroll through Facebook or other apps. The legislation, both the new state law that takes effect in 2021 and the June 9 city
In 2018, about 1,100 of 6,000 crashes in the city involved distracted driving.
ordinance, carries a $125 fine for a first offense and a $250 fine for a subsequent violation. For the state code, the heftier fine could be levied against a first-time offender if the violation occurs in a highway work zone.
The local ordinance does not apply to drivers lawfully stopped or parked, emergency vehicle drivers such as police officers and firefighters, drivers using a handheld communications device to report an emergency, or drivers using a radiobased communications device during an emergency or disaster relief operation.
Capriglione said the department wants to give city residents, and anyone who might drive regularly on city streets, plenty of notice ahead of the new ordinance, hoping to gain compliance before any enforcement begins.
“Our intention isn’t to catch anyone off guard,” Capriglione said.
Special Operations Division Captain Don Davenport, in a statement from the department, said: “The goal is to increase the safety of all who use the roadways, including pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers and other drivers. We want all motorists to begin each trip by buckling up and putting their phones down.”