Several new Virginia highway safety laws take effect Monday. In an effort to increase the safety of those working alongside highways, the General Assembly passed a bill prohibiting drivers from holding a handheld personal communication device while driving a vehicle in a highway work zone. Violation of the law is punishable by a fine of $250.

“Close calls, injury, and death are a daily risk to every highway maintenance employee,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “In work zones alone, in 2018 there were 2,523 crashes, 1,256 injuries – some of them life changing – and nine fatalities. It is imperative that we protect those whose ‘office’ is the highway.”

“Distracted driving claims thousands of lives each year,” says Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. “In a work zone or elsewhere, drivers need to put their phones and any other distractions away and focus on the road ahead.”

Two bills signed by Governor Ralph Northam also work to better protect emergency personnel responding to incidents along Virginia highways. House Bill 1911 increases the penalty for failure to move over one lane on highways with at least four lanes when approaching certain stationary vehicles, including emergency responders, from a traffic infraction to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Other bills taking effect July 1 include:

• House Bill 2805 – Prohibits parking any vehicle in any striped accessible aisle adjacent to a parking space reserved for persons with disabilities.

• House Bill 1867/Senate Bill 1787 – Increases from $500 to $600 the fee for noncompliance with Virginia’s motor vehicle insurance laws; expands eligibility for individuals to enter into payment plans for noncompliance fees; and allows customers to surrender license plates to DMV online or by telephone without partial refund of registration fees.

• House Bill 1927 – Allows DMV to designate on an identification card if the applicant is blind or vision impaired.

• Senate Bill 1487 – Allows DMV to designate on a driver’s license or identification card a traumatic brain injury, provided the applicant presents a signed statement by a licensed neurologist confirming the applicant’s condition.