Distracted driving has far-reaching, tragic effects
April marks Distracted Driving Awareness Month and serves as a reminder to keep your eyes—and full attention—on the road.
Distracted driving is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on a phone, eating or drinking, talking to passengers in the vehicle, or operating a radio or navigation system.
Distracted driving also is a fast-growing epidemic in Virginia and nationwide.
In 2017 more than 200 people were killed and more than 14,600 were injured in Virginia as a direct result of distracted driving, according to Shannon Valentine, the state’s secretary of transportation. Almost 40,000 people die annually in U.S. vehicle crashes related to distracted driving.
According to Drive Smart Virginia, using a handheld device while driving is a leading cause of distraction-related crashes. Consequently, the nonprofit safety organization urges drivers to simply “put the phone down and just drive.”
“Our insurance industry also is feeling the effects of this epidemic, as we continue to see claims increase as a result of distracted driving,” noted Darlene Wells, executive vice president and general manager of Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co. VFBMIC is a founding member of Drive Smart Virginia, and Wells is a member of the Drive Smart Virginia board of directors.
In December 2018, Gov. Ralph Northam established an Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety that is charged with reducing the rising number of fatalities on Virginia’s roadways. The commonwealth has established a highway safety portal at TZDVA.org, where Virginians are invited to participate in the YourSayVA Digital Town Hall on Distracted Driving by taking an anonymous survey.
“The more our state leadership hears from the citizens of Virginia that we are concerned, the more likely changes will happen,” Wells said.