Virginia (VA) finished near the bottom on a list ranking states for highway safety. The list was created by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS), a non-profit organization which evaluates state highway safety regulations prior to the beginning of legislative sessions. According to the ranking criteria, Virginia failed to adequately meet the standards for 10 laws.
The organization’s biggest criticism of the Commonwealth is the use of “secondary enforcement.” This prevents a police officer from enforcing certain laws unless you’re stopped for another violation. The new restrictions on texting while driving are categorized as secondary enforcement laws.
An example of these laws at work would be a police officer sees you texting while driving. Under current law, they cannot pull you over for that offense alone. You need to be speeding, run a red light, or perform some other traffic violation in order to the police officer to pull you over and then they are able to issue a citation for the texting violation.
"Secondary enforcement laws are weak," said Jacqueline Gillan, vice president of AHAS."They are impossible to enforce, and we’re sending the wrong message when we adopt them."
AHAS recommends Virginia legislators change these secondary enforcement laws and bump them up to primary enforcement laws,according to the Washington Post.
I agree with the AHAS assessment and support the recommendation to stiffen some of these secondary enforcement laws. In addition to texting while driving, seatbelt laws are considered secondary enforcement.
We cannot be so cavalier about these safety issues. It was revealed that texting while driving is just as dangerous as drinking and driving. Virginia’s drunk driving laws are primary enforcement, so it would make sense to move texting while driving to same level. Our law firm has been on the cutting edge of this issue and we wrote a special report about distracted driving, which includes texting while driving.
The fact that seatbelt laws are secondary enforcement is outrageous. This should have been changed a long time ago. Too many people die in preventable car wrecks because they failed to wear their seatbelt. The law needs to change.
Overall, AHAS claims 388 new laws are needed nationwide to dramatically improve highway safety.
About the Editors: Shapiro, Cooper, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm (VA-NC law offices ) edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard, and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as a pro bono service to consumers.