Don’t use a cell­phone and drive: City ban takes ef­fect on June 9

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - NEWS - BY ALI ROCKETT Rich­mond Times-Dis­patch arock­ett@timesdis­patch.com (804) 649-6527 Twit­ter: @AliRock­et­tRTD

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.”

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