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Fatalities and Thousands of Injuries from Distracted Driving

It hasn’t made many headlines, but this is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month—and Virginia has announced that more than 24,000 crashes statewide last year were attributed to distracted drivers. 

Those distractions caused both fatalities and thousands of injuries.  State officials stress that such accidents can be prevented.

The first thing state Highway Safety Office Director John Saunders does at work each day is read the traffic fatality report from the previous day. Saunders warns that behind the numbers are real people with families.

Highway Safety Office Director John Saunders

“I can guarantee you, when they started their day, that they didn’t know that this would be their last day—that that’s the seriousness of what we deal with when we talk about highway safety. It’s a life and death situation.”

He says when motorists think they can multi-task and often take their eyes off the road, it’s distracted driving. 

“Motorists are 23 times more likely to get into a crash while driving distracted.”

Last year in Virginia, that resulted in 163 deaths and more than 14,000 injuries.

“We talk about the numbers. We also don’t talk about devastating injuries that occur also. We talk fatalities, but the costs of injuries—whether personal costs or economic costs—are incredibly high.”

Saunders says drivers need to set their GPS, seat, mirror, and radio and secure pets and children before hitting the road. He recommends turning off and placing cell phones out of reach. And he says parents need to set good examples for teen drivers, who will imitate them. 

Saunders also emphasizes that buckling up seat belts is the primary defensive strategy.

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