Holding a phone while driving will be illegal in Virginia starting January 1

Teenager using a phone at the wheel. (Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

It will soon be illegal in Virginia to hold a phone while driving.

The new state law takes effect January 1.

Authorities say that making the practice illegal and enforceable is an important step toward reducing deaths on the road.

"If you’re looking down at your phone, texting or checking an email, you’re not looking at the road and that can go so far, so badly, so fast," Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said.

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Researchers at Virginia Tech found that 80% of all crashes involve driver inattention.

"Last year, believe it or not, there were more than 23,000 — I’ll repeat that, 23,000 — crashes in Virginia that were caused by distracted driving, and 120 of those individuals lost their lives," Northam said.

The General Assembly passed the new legislation earlier this year. Drivers can still talk on the phone. But they cannot hold the device.

Drivers who are caught face a fine of $125.