Distracted Driving Awareness Month

VIRGINIA AMONG 15 EAST COAST STATES PARTICIPATING IN ANNUAL “I-95 DRIVE TO SAVE LIVES”

RICHMOND – Virginia will be among 15 states, from Maine to Florida, participating in a two-day “Drive to Save Lives” traffic safety initiative along Interstate 95. On Friday and Saturday, April 9-10, 2021, Virginia State Police will be dedicating additional patrol resources to Interstate 95 traffic safety enforcement. Motorists can expect to see an increased presence of troopers along Virginia’s entire 178 miles of I-95, from the border of North Carolina to Maryland. This year the initiative coincides with Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“With April being Distracted Driving Awareness Month and Virginia’s new hands-free law, this enhanced enforcement initiative along the East Coast couldn’t come at a better time,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Superintendent of the Virginia State Police. “This time of year people are on the road for Spring Break, vacations and outdoor adventuring. Keeping your eyes on the road, buckling up, complying with posted speed limits and never driving intoxicated, will help ensure your spring travels are safe, especially along the I-95 corridor.”

 In 2020, Virginia recorded 37 traffic crash fatalities on I-95, six of which involved distracted driving. Additionally, five of those crashes involved drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In all, 625 people lost their lives in crashes along the entire 1,920 miles of I-95 last year.

In addition to complying with traffic laws, drivers are reminded that as of January 1, 2021, it is illegal to hold a handheld personal communications device while driving a moving motor vehicle on Virginia highways. For more information on the new law, visit www.phonedown.org.

With increased patrols, State Police also remind drivers of Virginia’s “Move Over” law, which requires motorists to move over when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road. If unable to move over, then drivers are required to cautiously pass the emergency vehicle. The law also applies to workers in vehicles equipped with amber lights.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

South Hill, VA (4/5/21) – In Virginia last year, distracted driving caused 17,000 accidents, including 120 fatalities and 9,000 injuries. The good news is accidents due to distracted driving have been on a decline over the past three years. Lawmakers have noticed and finally made driving with hand-held devices not lawful as of January 1, 2021. A texting while driving conviction carries a $125 fine for the first offense and a $250 fine for second or subsequent offenses. Overall, texting and cell phone use account for fewer than 10 percent of distractions.

From the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website, “The three basic types of distracted driving are manual, visual and cognitive, and all three increase crash risk. During visual distraction, drivers’ eyes are off the road, such as looking at another accident or the dashboard. A driver’s hand is off the wheel during manual distraction, such as eating or handling an object. Cognitive distraction poses the highest risk because the driver’s mind is off driving. When a driver’s brain is overloaded by two cognitive tasks, such as driving and talking on the phone, drivers make the phone conversation the main task and driving becomes the secondary task, without recognizing it. Driving is severely impaired as a secondary task, and the impairment can last a long time.”

The average weight of a vehicle is 4,000 pounds. That kind of weight moving 60-70 miles per hour is the reason so many deaths and injuries occur. Janet Kaiser, Emergency Department Director at VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital (VCU Health CMH) explains, “Being located right off I-85 and near the Route 58 corridor, we see a lot of trauma patients come in from motor vehicle accidents. One life is too many to lose. Please make driving the top priority and save lives.”

If someone is in an accident in Southside Virginia, they have access to VCU Health CMH. The emergency department has 16 private rooms including two large trauma rooms and staff and physicians capable of initiating care for most injuries. Visit vcu-cmh.org for more information.

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