According to data from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, driving distractions play a role of 80% of all crashes in the state. In response to these startling numbers, Virginia has established laws prohibiting electronic device use by drivers.

Review these distracted driving regulations to prevent serious auto accident injury.

Prohibitions for drivers

Drivers on Virginia roads may not use their phones to write, send or read emails, text messages and other online communications. While drivers can make calls on handheld cell phones, they may not do so in a work zone. Virginia does not allow drivers to use headsets or headphones behind the wheel.

The law also prohibits school bus drivers and commercial drivers from holding an electronic device while operating the vehicle. In addition, drivers younger than 18 may not make calls on a cell phone even when using hands-free technology.

Permitted smartphone use by drivers

Commercial vehicle drivers and drivers younger than 18 may use their cell phones to make an emergency report. The laws above do not apply to first responders when they are performing job duties, including drivers from the Department of Corrections, Office of Emergency Medical Services and the Department of Emergency Management. This exception also covers EMS providers, firefighters and police officers.

All Virginia drivers may use their phones to play music while driving. The law also permits the use of electronic GPS systems behind the wheel. Drivers may send and receive electronic messages when stopped at a red light.

Penalties for distracted driving

Prohibited smartphone use is a primary offense. That means law enforcement can pull over a driver simply for breaking one of the laws described above. However, officers can only pull over drivers younger than 18 for improper cell phone use when they also commit another traffic offense.

Drivers will receive a ticket for $125 for the first distracted driving offense. The court doubles this fine to $250 for every subsequent offense. Drivers with a commercial license will receive a fine of $2,750. In addition, a driver who causes an accident while committing a distracted driving offense will be financially responsible for resulting injuries and property damage.