RICHMOND, Va. (CBSDC/AP) — Tapping on your BlackBerry or iPhone while at the wheel of a car is going to cost you if a bill overwhelmingly endorsed by a Senate committee becomes law.

On a 10-4 vote Monday, the Senate Courts of Justice Committee approved legislation that makes texting or e-mailing while driving a primary offense in Virginia.

It’s already a secondary offense, meaning police have to have other grounds to stop a motorist.

Democratic Sen. George Barker of Fairfax said his bill authorizing police to hit the blue lights just for catching a driver texting addresses a huge surge in traffic accidents attributed to texting drivers and public anger over it.

Opponents questioned whether the bill would give police power to confiscate people’s phones or pre-empt a more serious charge of reckless driving.

In October, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli teamed up with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Ad Council to unveil a new public service announcement campaign, urging young adults to “Stop the texts and stop the wrecks,” after a study showed drivers who text while driving are 23 times more likely to crash than non-texting drivers.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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