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Distracted Driving Awareness Month reminds motorists to focus on road ahead

Distracted Driving Awareness Month reminds motorists to focus on road ahead

Every time drivers get behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, they have an obligation to make responsible choices to ensure the safety of those around them.

Still, many motorists fall short of this responsibility and choose to drive distracted, a dangerous action that can come at a price.

“The choices you make—whether you’re on a cellphone or maybe you’re just inattentive adjusting your GPS system and all of those things—can lead to deadly consequences,” said John Saunders, director of highway safety for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. “Not only on your part of losing your own life, but maybe causing the lives of others to be lost as well.”

Citing preliminary Virginia DMV data from 2021, Saunders noted over 20,000 accidents were attributed to distracted driving last year. Of those crashes, 11,627 injuries were reported and 116 resulted in fatalities.

In observance of Distracted Driving Awareness Month in April, motorists are being reminded to consider the results of their actions. Drive Smart Virginia—of which Virginia Farm Bureau is a founding member—is joining the cause by promoting its “Buckle Up, Phone Down” campaign.

The Drive Smart initiative encourages drivers to limit behaviors that can divert their attention away from the road. These actions include handling a cellphone, interacting with passengers, adjusting audio or climate controls or operating a navigation system.

While these brief actions seem harmless, it only takes a split second for an accident to occur. Saunders explained this is especially true on Virginia’s rural roadways, which make up about 75% of all roads in the state.

Of the 967 fatalities that occurred on Virginia roadways in 2021, 546 happened on rural roads. The leading cause of these crashes was road departure—accidents in which drivers leave lanes unintentionally, and their vehicles are involved in side collisions, veer off the road or cross centerlines into oncoming traffic.

Drivers in urban areas also are being reminded to exercise caution around pedestrians, as Virginia continues to see a spike in pedestrian-involved accidents and fatalities.

One way Virginia drivers can eliminate distracted driving is to be prepared, Saunders suggested. Motorists should plan to eliminate cellphone use while driving, keep it out of reach and limit other distractions.

“The bottom line when we talk about all these things is folks need to be attentive to the task of driving,” Saunders said. “Make the right choices, and really consider that you are sharing the road with others. Slow down, don’t drive distracted and don’t drive impaired.”