April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. To mark the campaign, Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers ran a series of blogs about this serious menace on our roads. We have also taken an in-depth look at the statistics that found distracted driving deaths in Virginia rose a staggering 18.2 percent in our state last year.
This is an alarming finding. In 2017, the number of distracted driving accidents fell but the number of deaths caused by a driver looking at a cellphone, texting or looking at something else rose to 208.
There were 843 deaths in Virginia in 2017, according to Virginia Traffic Crash Facts published by the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Virginia Highway Safety Office. Almost a quarter of all fatal wrecks in our state were caused by a distracted driver.
As I point out in this video, there are many distractions. However, there is no doubt that our addiction to smartphones and texting has fueled fatal accidents on our roads. Although texting is illegal in Virginia, many drivers still take the risk. They check, read and send messages at the wheel. They take their eyes off the road ahead.
Sending or reading a text message while you are driving takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at a speed of 55 mph.
It’s necessary to look behind the statistics to find out why more people are dying in Virginia crashes linked to texting and smartphones.
Why Are Distracted Driving Deaths in Virginia Rising?
In Virginia, 69 deaths in 2017 occurred when a distracted driver was speeding. That was a 6.2 percent increase on 2016. If you check your smartphone or text while speeding, you have even less time to react to a hazard ahead of you.
Many distracted drivers are failing to wear a seatbelt. Of those who died in 2017, 72 distracted drivers were unrestrained. Alarmingly, many drunk drivers are also texting. Last year VDOT reported 56 fatal crashes in which a distracted driver had been drinking alcohol.
Last year in Virginia, 147 drivers, 37 passengers, and 24 pedestrians were killed as a result of distracted driving. A further 14,656 people were injured in distracted driving crashes in Virginia, a 3.4 percent decrease on the previous year.
Although we associate distracted driving with new technology, it was only one of three top distracted driving categories in Virginia. They are:
Driving with your eyes off the road
Looking at a roadside incident
Using a cell phone or texting.
Typically, younger drivers are more likely to lose their lives when they are driving distracted. Inexperience and distracted driving prove to be a lethal cocktail.
Distracted Driving Deaths in Virginia and Teens
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists car crashes as the top cause of death for teenagers and young drivers. For younger or less experienced drivers, a lapse in concentration of just a few seconds can be deadly.
The Huffington Post reported distracted driving is increasingly taking over from drunk driving as a leading cause of traffic death for teens. However, the Virginia statistics reveal both may be factors in deadly wrecks.
While about 2,700 teens die every year in accidents linked to drunk driving, the figure for distracted driving has climbed to more than 3,000.
Approximately 8 young people are killed each day and about 1161 are injured daily in crashes that involved distracted driving in the United States.
As many as 10 percent of drivers between the ages of 15 and 19 who are killed were reported as distracted drivers at the time of a crash.
The problem should not be underestimated in Virginia or elsewhere. Earlier this year, Virginia Deputy Transportation Secretary Quintin Elliott warned a driver taking his or her eyes off the road to look at a smartphone or another distraction is “just as dangerous as drinking and driving in the commonwealth.”
Elliot warned of a Virginia distracted driving epidemic. He said the number of deaths caused by distracted driving is almost as high as the number of fatalities linked to drunk drivers.
Although April was designated as Distracted Driving Awareness Month, every month should be Distracted Driving Awareness Month. It’s important to break the chain of addiction to electronic devices when behind the wheel and to concentrate on the road ahead. It is high time to tackle distracted driving deaths in Virginia.
Put your smartphone in a place where you cannot reach for it while driving and avoid other distractions like eating or rubbernecking while driving.
If you have been injured by a distracted driver or if you have lost a loved one, please call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers today at (757) 455-0077.