Virginia Distracted Driving Legal Help
Have you ever felt bored while stuck in traffic? You know the importance of keeping your eyes on the road, but it doesn’t feel like a big deal to briefly check your phone. If you have, you aren’t alone. Distracted driving is increasingly common, but most don’t realize just how dangerous it is. According to research from the National Conference of State Legislatures, the majority of people have driven while distracted. Texting while driving is illegal in nearly every state and U.S. territory, but hundreds of millions of drivers still use their phones behind the wheel.
Every day in the United States, eight people die in distracted driving-related crashes, per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) research. Eight preventable deaths a day are tragic, but the accurate number is likely much higher. Law enforcement officers may not realize that distracted driving played a role during a fatal crash investigation and deem the cause unknown. Thousands of Americans die every year because of inattentive drivers, and fatalities are rising every year.
Why do drivers feel comfortable paying less attention to their surroundings? Simply put, they don’t think anything tragic will happen if they do. Distracted driving also feels more socially acceptable than driving drunk, even though both have devastating consequences. In fact, driving while texting is six times more likely to cause an accident when compared to drunk driving, according to the NHTSA.
There’s no national ban on phone use while driving, so distracted driving laws vary around the country. Some states are surprisingly lenient — for example, there are no statewide laws against distracted driving in Montana. Thankfully, Virginia distracted driving laws are making it harder for drivers to get away with the behavior. On January 1, 2021, the state made it illegal for drivers to hold cell phones while driving except in cases of emergency or while parked. A first-time Virginia distracted driving violation carries a $125 fine, and subsequent offenses carry a $250 penalty.
While these preventative Virginia distracted driving measures are encouraging, distracted driving won’t disappear anytime soon. The Virginia Highway Safety Office releases a comprehensive report about the previous year’s traffic accidents annually. In 2020, distracted driving accounted for 18,808 crashes in Virginia. That means that preoccupied drivers cause nearly 1 in 5 car crashes in the state. In comparison, there were only 6,624 alcohol-related crashes. While both are entirely avoidable and cause unneeded tragedy, distracted driving accidents affect more lives.
Types Of Distracted Driving
Cell phone use is one of the most significant causes of distracted driving accidents, but it’s far from the only culprit. A 2013 analysis of federal crash data looked at the police reports that officers filed after examining fatal distracted driving crashes. The research found a few common behaviors with deadly consequences. Knowing to avoid them could save your life.
If you’re stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic and see sirens ahead, you’ll feel curious about what’s causing the traffic jam. Looking at another accident out of curiosity, also called rubbernecking, takes your attention away from the road. Keep your eyes on the car in front of you and avoid the temptation to crane your neck toward a crash.
Having other people in the car can make a drive feel less tedious, but it also carries the potential for dangerous distraction. If you’re in the middle of a spirited conversation with a passenger, you might take your eyes off the road to look at them as you talk. Interacting with the children in your car can also be dangerous. For example, rooting around the backseat with one hand for a thrown toy increases your risk of a crash.
Eating or Drinking
While eating behind the wheel isn’t explicitly illegal, it’s high-risk behavior. Even the best drivers need both hands on the wheel at all times, which isn’t possible if you’re consuming a meal. Drive-thru meals are surprisingly dangerous while on the road. A burger and fries require both hands to eat, and a hot coffee could easily spill and cause burns while you’re driving. It’s not an appealing thought when you’re hungry, but waiting until you arrive at your destination is the smartest choice.
Adjusting your mirrors, picking an air conditioning temperature, choosing a radio station — these are all things that you should do before you start driving. Still, it’s unavoidable that you might need to change them. It’s tempting to keep an eye on the road and fiddle with these settings as you drive, but waiting until your vehicle is stopped reduces the chance of a distracted driving accident.
Have you ever spent a drive so deep in thought that you get to your destination and can’t remember how you got there? Driving can be monotonous, and it’s not uncommon to zone out without realizing you’re doing so. When you’re distracted by your thoughts, you’re less focused on potential road hazards. This is a particularly hazardous type of distracted driving because it’s easy to let your mind wander.
The Dangers Of Distracted Driving
Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute found that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds doubles your risk of a crash. Research commissioned by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) shows that the average driver takes their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds to send a text message. Their vehicle travels the length of a football field in that time, putting everyone else around them in peril. Some distracted drivers will veer off the roadway, causing single-vehicle crashes that leave others unaffected. Often, though, inattentive drivers collide with other cars, injuring and even killing other people.
Distracted drivers frequently cause rear-end crashes. If someone isn’t paying attention to the road, they won’t be able to brake when a car suddenly stops and will instead plow into them. Even mild rear-end collisions still often cause whiplash, concussions, herniated discs, and headaches. A slight fender bender can still damage a car’s bumper enough that it would require repairs.
Side-impact collisions, also known as T-bone crashes, are also a result of distracted driving. When a driver isn’t fully concentrating on the road, they may roll through a stop sign or red light and collide with a vehicle that’s obeying the right of way. These accidents can be fatal. Federal law mandates that vehicles have frontal airbags, but side airbags are optional. As a result, traumatic brain injury, cracked ribs, and neck and chest injuries are all commonly associated with T-bone accidents.
Even if a distracted driving crash doesn’t cause serious physical injuries, the mental and emotional side effects can be long-lasting. In the seconds after an accident, you don’t know whether you’re injured and if your passengers are safe. That panic can be difficult to shake even after the dust settles. Some people struggle to drive again or avoid the area where the accident happened, and the mental anguish can sometimes only be treated with the help of a professional.
How To Stop Distracted Driving
The risks of distracted driving are clear. We have countless statistics showing the danger of this behavior, and thousands of people die needlessly every day. The priority is now raising distracted driving awareness so that people who may not fully understand the dangers feel equipped to make better decisions. Several organizations have committed to doing their part to end distracted driving entirely, and you can donate or volunteer to help further their mission.
EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving) was founded by the parents of 21-year-old Casey Feldman, who lost her life to a distracted driver in 2009. The organization gives talks to students, provides educational materials, and releases video PSAs.
DRIVE SMART Virginia is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization focused on reducing traffic injuries and fatalities in Virginia. DRIVE SMART hosts an annual Distracted Driving summit to brainstorm ways to deter distracted driving.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is a not-for-profit research and education organization that examines the causes of roadway accidents to determine how to reduce them. Founded in 1947, it’s one of the oldest traffic research establishments in the U.S.
Virginia has made strides in educating young people about distracted driving. The state’s Driver Education Law (§ 22.1-205) requires the Virginia Board of Education to provide all public school students standardized driver education. Along with distracted driving, the program covers alcohol and drug use, aggressive driving, and what to do during traffic stops.
We should all do our part to make our roads safer, and Curcio Law is passionate about ending distracted driving. Our distracted driving lawyers work with SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions), a student organization that encourages students to make wise choices. Adolescents and teens learn the harm behind dangerous behavior like inattentive driving. Additionally, we work with EndDD.org to give presentations about driving hazards while preoccupied and share real-life stories and statistics to help young people realize the weight of their decisions.
How A Virginia Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer Can Help
According to the CDC, 400,000 people are injured every year in distracted driving accidents. If you’re one of them, you don’t have to handle the claims process by yourself. Call a Virginia distracted driving accident attorney instead. A distracted driving accident lawyer will review your case for free and advise you on how to proceed. They can also help you negotiate with the at-fault driver’s insurance company and, if necessary, represent you in court. In Virginia, you might be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, lost income, and pain and suffering.
Consulting with an attorney knowledgeable in Virginia distracted driving cases can alleviate the stress and complexities of managing the aftermath. Contrary to popular belief, you pay no money upfront, so getting additional advice from an expert in distracted driving can’t hurt. For more legal information following a Virginia distracted driving accident, call or text 703-836-3366 or contact Curcio Law online.