Dram Shop Expert

Litigation Support and Expert Witness Services

VA:  AAA urges support for traffic safety laws

VA:  AAA urges support for traffic safety laws

CBS 19 News

Associated Press

By News Staff

February 10, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) — With the halfway point of the General Assembly session, bills that have passed in either the House of Delegates or the Senate will crossover to the other chamber.

AAA is urging lawmakers to support three changes to traffic safety laws, including prohibitions on the use of handheld electronic devices while driving, a ban on open containers of alcohol in the passenger compartment of vehicles, and a change to allow police officers to pull over and ticket a person for not wearing a seat belt.

According to a release, AAA says these bills, if passed, would save lives and reduce injuries resulting from crashes on roads in Virginia.

“Virginia lawmakers are on the verge of making dramatic progress toward safer roadways. These three changes are long overdue and represent major advancements in the fight to save lives, said Martha Mitchell Meade, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of Public and Government Affairs. “AAA urges lawmakers to continue to approve these bills and send them to the governor for his signature. Lives depend on it.”

The release says AAA conducted a survey of Virginia drivers less than a year ago and found that nearly two-thirds support expanding the law prohibiting the use of handheld devices while driving on any road, not just work zones.

However, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety also found that those concerns are not changing driving behaviors. Even with 97 percent of those polled saying that texting or emailing while driving is a serious threat to safety, 45 percent admitted to reading a text or email while driving in the past month, and 35 percent admitted to typing such messages.

Current law in Virginia also says police officers cannot pull over and ticket someone for not wearing a seat belt unless that officer sees the driver break another law first.

AAA says if primary enforcement seat belt laws were enacted in the Commonwealth, more people would buckle up and the number of traffic fatalities would be reduced.

A total of 34 states have enacted this kind of law, and AAA says such states experience seat belt used rates 10 to 12 percent higher than those that have secondary enforcement laws.

Finally, the third proposal would make it illegal for anyone to “possess any alcoholic beverage other than in the manufacturer’s unopened original container” in the passenger compartment of a vehicle on public roads.

There would be exceptions to this proposed law to include containers in locked glove compartments or in the trunk of the vehicle.

Crossover Day, the halfway point of the 2020 General Assembly session, is Tuesday.