As always, a batch of new laws became effective in Virginia July 1. And as always, no one paid much attention. But not paying attention is precisely what one of those new laws aims to minimize. We’re thinking of the new law that makes it illegal to hold a phone while driving in a construction zone.
It’s too soon to say whether police around Virginia will begin enforcing this latest legislative decree with the zeal they bring to other traffic-related outrages but the constabulary in Roanoke is wasting no time, nailing drivers in construction zones around Virginia Western Community College.
The Roanoke Times details the case of motorist Theresa Passeretti, recently pulled over on Roanoke’s Colonial Avenue.
“Do you know why I pulled you over?” the officer asked and Passeretti said she honestly didn’t. When told that she had been caught in the act of using her phone while driving through a construction zone, she said she didn’t know it was illegal and asked if she could just get a warning instead of a ticket.
The officer replied: “If you were to hit one of these workers, they wouldn’t have had a warning,” the Times reported.
$250 fine, mandatory court appearance
The consequences will be acutely felt in Passeretti’s bank account. Conviction carries a mandatory $250 fine and court costs could easily push the total beyond the $300 mark.
Further, it’s not a mail-in offense. You can’t just send a check and be done with it. If nabbed, you will be required to appear in court and explain yourself to the judge.
The new law applies 24 hours a day on any road with a marked construction or maintenance zone, whether or not any construction or maintenance is actually going on.
The sponsor of the measure, Sen. Monty Mason (D-Williamsburg) said highway officials told him that distracted drivers are a constant menace in construction zones, where nine people were killed and 2,523 injured last year.