Two New Virginia Laws Increase Safety For Pedestrians and All Road Users

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Mary Dallao Tweet Us @WalkArlington@WalkArlington July 20, 2020

Mary Dallao is the Program Manager for WalkArlington. She loves being outdoors and can often be found walking or running on one of Arlington’s beautiful trails.

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With enforcement beginning in January 2021, two new Virginia laws aim to make our roadways safer for all.

In 2019, pedestrian fatalities in the United States were at their highest rate since 1988. Although Arlington is safe for walking, the County still had 166 crashes and four pedestrian fatalities that same year.

Policymakers and officials at the federal, state, and local levels are responding to this safety crisis with new initiatives and laws to protect pedestrians. Locally, in July 2019, Arlington County joined neighboring jurisdictions committed to Vision Zero, a strategy “to eliminate all traffic fatalities and increase healthy, equitable mobility for all.” State-wide, legislators recently passed two new laws that help increase the safety of all road users.

What are these laws and how do they affect us? Let’s break them down.

Virginia Pedestrian Laws

Virginia “Hand-held” Law (aka “Put down your phone while driving!”)

What is this law?

This law bans cell phone use while driving in the state of Virginia. This means you cannot have your phone in your hand while operating a motor vehicle: No texting, no talking on the phone (unless you’re on speakerphone and are chatting hands-free), and no scrolling, reading, or web surfing. Similar laws are already on the books in Washington D.C. and Maryland.

What are the penalties of this law?

For a first offense, you’ll be fined $125. If you’re in a construction zone or if it’s your second offense, the fine is $250.

When does enforcement of this law begin?

January 1, 2021. This allows time to build awareness of the new law among the general public.

Pedestrian Crosswalk Law (aka “Pedestrians have the right of way!”)

What is this law?

Previous legislation required drivers to simply yield to people walking in a marked or unmarked crosswalk. Now, with the Pedestrian Crosswalk Law, drivers in all lanes must come to a complete stop – even if the person is crossing from the opposite side of the street or if there’s a median. In addition, other cars behind the one stopped must not pass.

What if I don’t stop?

If you don’t stop, besides endangering someone else’s life, you could be fined $500.

When does enforcement of this law begin?

Like the Hand-held Law, enforcement starts in January 2021.

Stay Up-To-Date

Remember: If you’re driving, it’s now illegal to use a mobile device in Virginia. Also, you must now come to a complete stop (not just yield) for a person in a crosswalk. Want to stay informed about pedestrian safety and all things walking in Arlington? Sign up for our bi-weekly newsletter.

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