Hampton Roads Transit in Virginia (VA) has banned its employees from using cell phones while driving, pointing to the link between cell phone use and distracted driving.

HRT president/CEO Philip Shucet announced the new internal policy on January 14. It applies to all employees driving company vehicles, as well as usage in private vehicles if the employee has an HRT supplied phone.

Shucet made reference to a distracted driving study by the National Highway traffic Safety Administration on distracted driving which found that 80 percent of all fatal automobile accidents – and 65 percent of near crashes – happen within three seconds of some form of driver distraction. In 2009, 5,474 lives were lost and 448,000 people injured in the U.S. as a direct result of distracted driving.

“Keep in mind that distracted driving is killing us, literally,” Shucet said.

HRT covers the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Hampton, Newport News and Chesapeake (VA).

Our firm is very sympathetic to the many victims of this menace on our roads. In a recent report we highlighted how distracted driving is the second most common cause of car wrecks in North Carolina, (NC) after speeding.

Studies have shown texting while driving is 23 times more dangerous than not texting and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood declared how distracted driving is an epidemic.

It’s not illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving in Virginia, (VA) but you may end up involved in a serious accident or a lawsuit if you get distracted. 

In Virginia, the General Assembly approved legislation in 2007 preventing teens with provisional licenses from using a cell phone, except in an emergency. In 2009 the Assembly banned texting while driving, but it made the crime a secondary offense, which means police have to stop a motorist for another infraction before they can cite him or her for texting.

The dangers of texting while driving were recently highlighted on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, a show currently being filmed in Virginia Beach (VA). Justin Bieber and Emma Roberts made special appearances to support the Remember Alex Brown Foundation. Alex Brown was a 17-year-old Texas girl who died in a texting-while-driving accident.

Changes may be ahead on the use of mobile phones while driving. In September 2009, the Obama administration held a Distracted Driving Summit and plans on introducing federal laws banning cell phone use and texting have been discussed.

Locally moves for a more comprehensive ban have failed. State Sen. Harry Blevins, R-Chesapeake, (VA) has been a past sponsor of unsuccessful bills.

“There are a lot of people… who don’t want Big Brother telling them what to do,” Blevins told the Virginian-Pilot last year.

Cell phones are a major cause of distracted driving but there are others. Our firm recently noted how distracted driving due to a radio caused an accident in Suffolk (VA).

Our attorneys have called on more than 100 years of combined experience to compile this user-friendly guide to distracted driving to help ensure you don’t become a victim.