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Why Should I Observe Distracted Driving Awareness Month?

April 19, 2021

Distracted Driver on the Phone

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, which is an annual event to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and how these car accidents can be prevented. Distracted driving is a common cause of motor vehicle accidents, and every driver has a responsibility to avoid operating a vehicle while distracted. During April, it is important for all motorists to learn about distracted driving accidents. This knowledge will help drivers reduce accidents. 

What is Distracted Driving?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving can be defined as any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from operating a vehicle. Looking away from the road for even just two seconds doubles the risk of a crash. Distracted driving includes activities, such as:

  • Talking
  • Texting
  • Changing the radio station
  • Programming the navigation system
  • Putting on makeup
  • Changing clothes
  • Eating and drinking
  • Attending to children
  • Searching for a misplaced item
  • Checking social media

There are also three types of distractions: 

Visual: Visual distractions, such as looking at the navigation system, take the driver’s eyes off the road.

Manual: Manual distractions, such as eating and drinking, require the driver to use their hands for something other than holding the steering wheel.

Cognitive: Cognitive distractions occur when the driver’s mind is no longer focused on the act of driving. 

Some distractions involve a combination of more than one type of distraction. Using a cellphone while driving is particularly dangerous because it encompasses all three types, meaning the driver is visually, manually, and cognitively distracted. Additionally, it is now illegal in Virginia to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highway while holding a handheld communication device. 

How can I Avoid Distractions?

Distracted driving accidents are preventable. Distracted Driving Awareness Month raises awareness and educates the public about the dangers of distracted driving with the goal of reducing traffic fatalities and injuries in Virginia. Taking the following precautions can help drivers avoid distractions while driving:

  • Plan ahead. This applies to both short and long-distance trips. Decide the route, program navigation, and set radio stations or music choices before the vehicle is in motion. Check that mirrors, seat position, and climate controls are also adjusted before hitting the road. Part of planning ahead includes checking traffic conditions and leaving enough time to get to the destination. Departing in a hurry encourages motorists to try to do many of the above tasks while driving. Some drivers even think they can save time by dressing or doing their personal grooming in the car on the way to work.
  • Be mindful while driving. Being mindful means being aware of the act of driving and staying vigilant about it. Practice good driving behaviors, like scanning the road, checking mirrors and blind spots, driving defensively, and anticipating the actions of other drivers. Be on the lookout for pedestrians and cyclists as well.
  • Stow cellphones away. If the phone is out of reach, the temptation to use it can be avoided. Other options include turning it to airplane mode or activating features that notify callers that the person is driving. Holding a cellphone while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is prohibited in Virginia.
  • Avoid eating in the car. Snack before or after the trip. On a long trip where eating and drinking may be necessary, avoid messy foods.
  • Check on children and pets before driving. Secure their seating, and make sure they have what they need. Turning around and reaching into the back seat while driving is extremely dangerous. If a child or pet requires immediate attention, safely pull off the road to deal with the situation.
  • Secure loose objects. Gear and possessions that can roll around during the trip are distracting. Reaching down to retrieve an object makes it impossible to stay focused on the road ahead.
  • Keep distractions from passengers to a minimum. Ask passengers to lower their voices and refrain from talking to the driver when possible. Teenagers and new drivers are especially susceptible to distractions from passengers. Passengers who are in a car with a distracted driver can speak up and ask the driver to focus their attention on driving.
  • Lead by example. Parents can lead by example by demonstrating the above good driving behaviors in front of their children.

What are the Penalties for Using a Cellphone While Driving in Virginia?

The handheld ban allows for drivers in Virginia to be fined for holding a handheld personal communications device while behind the wheel. A first offense can lead to a fine of $125, and a $250 fine is for subsequent offenses.

Texting while driving can be deadly. According to the NHTSA, sending or reading a text while driving at 55 miles per hour is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with closed eyes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claims that approximately eight people die in distracted driving accidents each day in the United States. These crashes kill not only those in the vehicles involved, but often pedestrians, cyclists, or other people outside the vehicles.

Who is at Risk for Distracted Driving?

Statistics from the NHTSA show that teenage drivers are at the highest risk for distracted driving. Drivers aged 15 to 19 years old involved in a fatal crash were more likely than any other age group to be distracted. Older teenagers were more likely to text and email while driving than their younger peers. Many students who were interviewed for a CDC survey who said they texted and emailed while driving also engaged in other risky driving behaviors, such as not wearing a seat belt, driving after drinking alcohol, and riding with a passenger who had been drinking.

Parents of teenage drivers can help them avoid distracted driving by talking about the importance of focusing on the task of driving, emphasizing safe driving, and using a contract, such as the CDC’s Parent-Teen Driving Agreement, to formalize a commitment to obey the rules of the road. 

Parents should remind their teenagers that a text or phone call is not more important than safe driving. Set down consequences for distracted driving, and make sure teenagers know the state penalties for talking or texting while driving. Always set a good example by staying focused while driving with both hands on the wheel. 

Distracted Driving Car Accidents in Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach is a popular tourist destination, which means that many drivers during the peak travel season may be unfamiliar with the area. Trying to navigate through traffic with family and pets in tow results in many distracted drivers. The local narrow bridges and tunnels require a driver’s full attention. 

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, 14.2 percent of all fatal crashes in 2020 involved distracted driving. This number likely does not describe the true extent of the problem because it is often difficult to determine what factors cause fatal accidents. Distracted driving accidents that are not fatal can leave victims with serious injuries that result in large medical bills, lost income from missing work, and property damage. A car accident victim should seek medical care and contact an experienced lawyer after a distracted driving collision.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Advocate for Victims of Distracted Driving Accidents

It is against the law in Virginia to use a cellphone while driving a motor vehicle. If you were recently injured in an accident that was caused by a negligent driver, our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers can help. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we will fight to hold the responsible party accountable and obtain compensation for your injuries. Call us at 757-352-2237 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shore, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-994-8910