Breaking habit of holding phone while driving with Virginia's new hands-free law; local counselor weighs in

Posted at 4:35 AM, Jan 06, 2021

NORFOLK, Va. -- This scenario may have happened to you: You are driving, your phone rings or you get a notification, and you answer. If it happens occasionally or is habitual, you may want to consider breaking that habit since Virginia law now bans holding your phone while driving.

The new law went into effect in Jan. 1. Counselor Danielle Jweid said it can be hard for habitual users.

"I think a little bit of what's going on with the cellphones and keeping them in your hand all the time has to do with the notifications,” Jweid explained, “where there's that curiosity of when you get the notification of, 'I need to know what's happening here.'"

She said the habit may be hard to break but can be done. To start, she said she thinks the law itself can help break that habit.

"I think in one way, the law is going to be a deterrent because who wants to get a ticket? Who wants to pay a fee?” Jweid said.

The fine can be $125 for the first offense and $250 for the second and each subsequent offense. But Jweid added you should also take action yourself.

"So, that's going to be telling yourself, 'It can wait,’” Jweid said. "'I can go ahead and get from A to B, and I'll get back to them as soon as I get there.'"

She also suggested to put your phone somewhere you may not be able to reach with it silent.

The law does allow your phone to be used during emergencies and with hands-free devices. Regardless, Jweid said that can also be distracting.

"It takes you out visually because you're looking over your phone to just see, 'Oh, I just got a notification,' so you're distracted,” Jweid said. "Multi-tasking isn't real. You can't put 100% of your attention on driving and 100% attention to what your cellphone is doing."

Related: Advocate remembers relatives killed in crash as new hands-free law goes into effect

Making changes will be different for everyone.

"It's going to depend on the person because cellphones,” Jweid said, “especially as we look down to younger generations, are so ingrained the culture in the way that people live."