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GETTING THERE: Local texting-while-driving data is in

IT’S BEEN just more than a year now since texting while driving became something a cop can stop you for and give you a ticket.

Locally, the numbers are low.

Fredericksburg charged 16 drivers with the offense last year. Spotsylvania charged nine. Stafford nabbed three.

Fairfax County alone had 318 convictions for texting while driving last year, good for most in the state, according to a story in the Chesterfield Observer on the texting law.

According to the article, police say it’s a difficult crime to get convictions on because they say it’s a challenge to get warrants to obtain data from the phones. They also say it’s difficult for police to distinguish between texting and normal cellphone use.

The Virginia State Police say in the article that distracted driving is an issue that contributed to 20 percent of all deadly crashes in 2013.

Last year, troopers handed out nearly 750 texting-while-driving citations across the state.

In the article, a delegate and a safe-driving advocate call for an outright ban on all use of handheld devices for Virginia drivers.

Other states have done it, but that seems like it’d be a tough pill to swallow for a lot of people.

Still, texting and driving is a problem much like drinking and driving once was. Back in the day people thought it was OK to get sloshed and drive, but society’s attitude, and laws, have changed.

Nowadays, the collective voice of society agrees that texting and driving is a problem. But do our individual egos agree?

Dear Scott: Has the Virginia Department of Transportation given consideration to extending the left-turn lane on southbound U.S. 17 where it approaches Plantation Drive?

I have been watching all of the extensive work being done at that intersection, but don’t yet see any signs of the designated left-turn lane onto Plantation Drive (between the BB&T and PNC Banks toward England Run and Truslow Road) being made longer to accommodate more cars.

It appears that there is room in the median strip for that to be done without much problem, and it certainly would help reduce congestion and backups at that intersection.

Now that there is a large residential development being built just a bit farther north between U.S. 1 and Mountain View/Enon Roads, the traffic along Plantation Drive has increased substantially and likely will increase further.

If all of the cars turning onto Plantation Drive can not fit into the left-turn access lane, they back up onto the U.S. 17 through-lane, making the already terrible traffic problems even worse and inviting rear-end collisions.

—Elaine Diepenbrock, Stafford

As part of the $48.9 million widening project on U.S. 17, VDOT is building a second left-turn lane at that intersection, said spokeswoman Kelly Hannon.

The addition of the second lane, she said, will essentially double the capacity, which should help prevent traffic from spilling onto the through lanes. There will also be second left-turn lanes added at three other intersections in the work zone.

Work on the second lane at Plantation Drive won’t start until 2016. The late start on that work is primarily due to the project’s phasing, something done to keep lanes open during the project, Hannon said.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436