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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
More Than a Thousand Virginia Crashes Attributed to Cell Phone Use

RICHMOND - To mark April as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reminds Virginians of the dangers of distracted driving. In 2010 there were 25,597 crashes, 122 fatalities and 14,722 injuries attributed to driver distractions. Cell phone use was a factor in 1,408 of those crashes.

"So many different electronic devices are competing for the attention of drivers over the task of driving itself," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor's Highway Safety Representative. "Instead of concentrating on driving, motorists are texting, talking on cell phones, eating and playing with the radio, CD player, or MP3 device. All too often the results of this distracting behavior are tragic. No text or call is worth a life."

A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute showed that manually texting and dialing cell phones caused a significant increase in crash risk. Texting was associated with the highest risk, 23 times greater than when not texting.

The study also found that using a headset is not any safer than using a hand-held phone. The greatest risks are taking your eyes off the road, which is required when initiating a call, and concentrating on a conversation rather than the complex task of driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) cell phones are a dangerous distraction, hands-free or not.

In Virginia, drivers younger than 18 may not operate a vehicle while using a cell phone, or any other wireless telecommunications device, including those that are considered to be hands-free. Texting or reading text messages while driving is also illegal for all drivers, no matter their age. Texting while driving convictions are assessed three demerit points on a driver's record.

Here are some distracted driving facts for 2010 in Virginia:

  • Most distracted driving crashes involve drivers 21 to 35 years old.
  • The top five driver distractions last year were, in this order:
    • drivers not having their eyes on the road
    • fatigue
    • looking at a roadside incident
    • cell phone use
    • passenger distractions
  • Most distracted driver crashes occurred at the end of the week on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, between noon and 6 p.m.

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