Virginia State Police have cited more than 300 drivers for texting while driving since the act became a primary offense in the commonwealth on July 1.
Previously, texting while driving was only a secondary offense, meaning police could not pull a driver over solely for texting while driving, and that another offense had to be noted at the time.
Since the law changed, state police officers have issued 328 citations across Virginia, according to a statement issued last week.
"Since the law went into effect, Virginia state troopers have been enforcing it just like any other primary offense," according to the statement. "The trooper must observe the illegal conduct of the vehicle’s operator, thus providing the trooper with reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop on that vehicle."
In Arlington, local police have issued 17 texting-while-driving citations since July 1.
Police have the discretion to warn, summons or arrest a violator if they observe him or her texting while driving and pull the driver over.
Texting while driving in Virginia earns one a $125 fine for the first offense, and doubles to $250 on a second or subsequent offense.
State police think the problem is more widespread than even these numbers can indicate.
“Keep in mind that this data does not provide an exact account of the problem that exists concerning texting while driving on Virginia’s highways,” said Col. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent. Drivers who have been cited since July 1 for texting while driving as a secondary offense are not included in the 328 number.
"Regardless, texting while driving puts at risk the driver, passengers and every other motorist, motorcyclist, pedestrian and bicyclist sharing the roadway with that inattentive driver," Flaherty stated.
Drivers of commercial vehicles or vehicles carrying between nine and 15 passengers are also prohibited from texting while driving under another part of the state law.
The law does permit "texting when necessary to communicate with law enforcement or other emergency services."
Do you think texting while driving is a problem in Arlington? Do you witness it a lot in this area? Tell us in the comments below.