Official Warns of Virginia Distracted Driving ‘Epidemic’
Distracted driving has become as serious as drunk driving in Virginia. Recently, a leading official warned of a Virginia distracted driving ‘epidemic’ on the back of alarming figures from 2017.
We noted how Virginia traffic deaths rose in 2017. There were 843 traffic deaths in the Commonwealth last year.
It’s always difficult to pinpoint the reason for a rise in fatalities and deaths rose 10.8 percent during a year when the overall number of crashes fell.
However, distracted driving is likely a massive factor. Virginia Deputy Transportation Secretary Quintin Elliott pulled few punches at a recent Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting when he warned taking your eyes off the road to look at your smartphone or another distraction is “just as dangerous as drinking and driving in the commonwealth.”
Elliot warned of a Virginia distracted driving epidemic after highlighting the fact the number of deaths caused by distracted driving is almost as high as the number of fatalities linked to drunk drivers.
Virginia saw 248 deaths linked to drunk driving last year. There were 208 fatalities resulting from crashes in which distracted driving was a factor.
Officials think that number underplays the true death toll linked to distractions. Elliot said:
“Distracted driving is becoming a serious epidemic as it relates to safety on our roadways. And 208 are only the numbers that [police] could identify. As we all know, that number is probably much higher.”
It’s more difficult to tally the number of accidents caused by distracted driving for a number of reasons. There are no standardized tests in the same way as breathalyzer and blood tests are used to find out if a motorist was driving drunk.
Last year more than 15,000 injuries resulted from more than 26,000-plus crashes that involved “self-reported” distracted driving, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV estimates you are 23 times more likely to crash if you are texting at the wheel, an illegal practice in Virginia. You are nine times more likely to crash if you are reaching for an object.
Although we associate smartphone technology with the major upsurge in recent injuries and deaths, there are many other forms of distracted driving such as children in a car, pets, and eating. The real number of causalities caused by distractions in Virginia remains unclear.
As an experienced Virginia distracted driving injury lawyer, the spike in these crashes alarms me. More and more drivers, passengers and pedestrians are reporting being hit and hurt by drivers who are not focusing on the road because they are on their phones. They may veer across lanes or fail to stop at red lights.
The figures in Virginia are in line with public perceptions. A study by the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety found distracted driving tops the list of perceived dangers on America’s roads.
The annual Traffic Safety Culture Index found 88 percent of motorists believe distracted driving is increasing, overtaking other dangerous driver behaviors like aggressive driving (68 percent); drivers using drugs (55 percent) and drunk driving (43 percent).
I am alarmed by the Virginia distracted driving epidemic. If you were hurt by a driver who was looking at a phone or texting, please call us for a free consultation at (757) 455-0077.