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New law bans cell phones while driving

With the new year comes a new law for Lunenburg that bans cell phone use while driving, and deputies have the option to write a summons to the operator of a motor vehicle if they are breaking that law.

Starting Jan. 1, a new law bans motorists from using any handheld personal communications devices while driving on Virginia’s roadways.

Law enforcement in neighboring counties of Charlotte and Prince Edward said they plan to enforce the new ban.

“We plan on enforcing the law through warnings and issuing traffic summons when necessary,” Charlotte County Sheriff Royal Freeman said.

Repeated attempts via phone and email to Lunenburg Sheriff Arthur Townsend as to if his department will enforce the new law have gone unanswered.

Drivers who violate the new law banning the use of cell phones while driving are subject to a $125 fine for the first offense and $250 for each subsequent offense.

The new law only applies to the direct handling of phones while driving.

Drivers may still use cell phones to make or receive calls while driving through the use of hands-free technology.

“I encourage all citizens to use “hands-free” devices such as Bluetooth while driving or simply pull over to a safe location,” Freeman said. “The use of handheld devices is still allowable by drivers who are lawfully parked or stopped.”

Freeman said cell phone use in the county while driving has been a factor in numerous motor vehicle crashes across the United States.

“Distracted driving claims nine lives per day — approximately 3,500 per year,” he said.

The National Safety Council (NSC) analysis of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data finds that 2,841 people died in distraction-affected crashes in 2018.

The percent of drivers using cell phones while driving has increased from 0.2% in 2005 to 3.2% in 2018.

Other new laws that took effect Jan. 1 include:

Conceal carry permits: Anyone looking to get a conceal carry permit in Virginia will now have to take an in-person class instead of an online course. Getting the training in person allows people to work one-on-one with someone and ask questions, something an online course could not offer.

Cost of insulin: Virginia-regulated health insurance companies will also no longer be able to increase the cost of insulin due to House Bill 66, which limits the charge of a 30-day supply of insulin to $50.

Driver privilege cards to non-U.S. citizens: Non-citizens may be eligible to obtain a driver privilege card if they are a resident of Virginia, have reported income from Virginia sources or are claimed as a dependent on a tax return filed in Virginia in the past 12 months and do not have a driving privilege that is currently suspended or revoked.