Virginia Debates New Distracted Driving Law as Pokemon Go Deaths Increase


It may be obvious that playing mobile phone games like the newly popular Pokémon Go behind the wheel is dangerous. But Virginia legislators are divided over whether there should be a new law against it.

Virginia Delegate Dave Albo, a Springfield Republican, says the law is good enough. “Playing a videogame is reckless driving. Reckless driving is a crime, by the way,” he said. “You can get up to a year in jail.”

But Delegate Jim Lemunyon, another Republican from nearby Chantilly, disagrees: “The distracted driving law could be interpreted to already cover it. But if it doesn’t, then obviously it should be changed.”

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association estimated that over 113,000 accidents occurred in a ten-day period, only relating to Pokémon Go. One driver in Japan killed a pedestrian in a car crash while playing the game last month.

Will Virginia be next?

“Like anything else, what usually happens is it takes some tragedies, unfortunately. Somebody introduces a bill then,” said Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, a Fairfax Democrat.

Somebody did. Virginia has a distracted driving law but State Senator Dave Marsden, a Fairfax County Democrat, said it only outlaws texting, not mobile phone games.

“As long as you don’t use your keyboard, if it’s all verbal, I think that it is legal. … I’m 98% certain,” he explained.

But Albo stated that voters like the law the way it is: “Everybody is against crime except for crimes they commit themselves.”

Some people even want to get rid of road safety laws that already exist. “You’d be shocked at the number of groups that come in to see me year after year saying we shouldn’t have to have helmet laws, whether it’s motorcycles or bikes,” explained Filler-Corn.

Marsden blames the republicans for not passing a new law. “There’s a lot of things … that we don’t do in Richmond that would save lives if we did them,” he explained. “It’s against their principles. They think it’s socialism, and even if it would save lives, they don’t care.”

Even if any state delegate wanted to do something about this issue, they would have to wait until winter because the legislature only meets from January to March.

And even if the legislature came to an agreement, Lemunyon stated, “It’s really tough for the police to enforce this … because cars are zipping down the road.”