When Virginia lawmakers return to work in January, there are a number of new rules for the road that will be address during the opening weeks and months of the new session.

When the General Assembly sessions begins again in Richmond, VA, the state’s politicians will listen to possible laws for drivers that have gained support and popularity in other states across the country such as California and New Jersey. Especially considering that the state of Virginia is short on funds this year, as are so many states, the policymakers may concentrate on less expensive projects that would promote safety on the roads and hopefully lessen the number of highway injuries and fatalities.

Delegate Algie Howell, a Democrat from Norfolk, will be sponsoring a bill that disallows drivers from sending, receiving, or reading text messages on mobile devices while driving any vehicle (including bicycles). This is the second year in a row that Howell will try to outlaw the dangerous driver distraction so popular among teens and younger drivers. The American Medical Association backs the bill on banning the new technology while driving.

“Texting while driving takes the driver’s attention away from the road, which can lead to accidents,” said Peter Carmel, an AMA board member. “No one should have to worry that other drivers are focused on texting instead of traffic. This is about keeping people safe on our roads.”

Meanwhile, Virginia Beach Democrat Bobby Mathieson will sponsor a bill that requires hands-free devices when driving and talking on the cell phone. These blue-tooth enabled ear buds would allow drivers to keep two hands on the wheel and promote safety. This is also the second year the bill will be offered.

Finally, Virginia Beach Republican Bob Purkey is also trying to make the roads safer through restrictions – he would like to offer a bill that made open containers illegal in any part of a vehicle – not just for the driver of the car or truck. This bill has had difficulty making through the House for years, even though law enforcement endorses the idea. Opponents of the bill claim that the open container laws already on the books are strict enough to prevent drunk driving.