Digital town hall results released Tuesday by Gov. Ralph Northam’s office show that 93 percent of the 2,000 respondents considered distracted-driving a “very serious or serious problem.”
They also voted it “the most serious of seven highway safety issues provided for ranking, followed closely by drunk driving,” the governor’s office said of the 11-question online survey, conducted in December.
A deal on hands-free legislation that brings Virginia in line with surrounding states died in the final days of the legislative session in February and then again during the legislature’s reconvened session April.
Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, was one of the lawmakers who threw a wrench in the works near the end of the session, insisting that drivers still be allowed to hold a phone to their ears.
“Texting, reading texts, dialing numbers by hand, scrolling through your phone book – all of that is clearly the kind of behavior that we need to eliminate,” he said. “But talking on your phone is functionally no different than eating a hamburger in your car.”
The House of Delegates rejected the Senate amendment allowing drivers to hold a phone for talking, with Del. Marcus Simon, D-Fairfax, calling it a “hands-free bill that’s not.”
An attempt by Northam to revive the legislation died during the reconvened session when his amendment was ruled “out of order” by House Speaker
Kirk Cox, R-Colonial Heights.
“With the awareness created by this town hall, we hope Virginians will motivate each other to ditch distractions and focus on the task of driving,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “Seventy percent of respondents said that, as passengers, they have asked a driver to put their phone away on at least one occasion. Virginians are clearly tired of sharing the roads with distracted, unsafe drivers who put their loved ones at risk.”