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More Virginians Dying in Distracted Driving Accidents, DMV Data Show

Just published Virginia Department of Motor Vehicle data show that the number and severity of all types of accidents involving cars, trucks, SUVs, motorcycles, pedestrians and bicycles decreased between 2005 and 2009. Even as fewer drivers, passengers and other people who share VA roads and highways declined, though, individuals who did become involved in wrecks that caused injuries or deaths were increasingly likely to be distracted by cell phone or GPS device use, eating, or paying more attention to other people in their vehicle than to traffic, lights and signs, or driving conditions.

According to the DMV, injuries and deaths due to distracted driving increased by 22 percent for the last five years for which complete traffic accident and casualty statistics are available. In real numbers this trend meant that "there were 77,617 MVT [motor vehicle traffic] injuries associated with driver distraction and 608 fatalities" in the commonwealth between 2005 and 2009.

Distracted drivers take their eyes and minds off the road, which makes them more likely to weave out of their lane, cause rear-end collisions and merge or make turns unsafely. Simply put, people who aren't paying attention to the task of driving while behind the wheel create hazards and cannot react quickly or appropriately to dangerous situations.

Mounting evidence shows that distracted driving can be even more deadly than driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact, a Norfolk, Virginia (VA), criminal trial jury just acquitted an admitted drunk driver of involuntary manslaughter because jurrors seem to have accepted as true testimony that the fatal crash the defendant caused occurred after he was distracted by being punched in the back of the head by one of his car passengers.

So maybe the new figures from the Virginia DMV aren't needed to drive home the message that distracted driving is one of the greatest risks to the health and lives of the people who do it and anyone else with whom they share the road. At the same time, if learning the stark injury and death statistics causes one person to wait until they get home to text or talk on their cell phone, than the data have served their purpose.

Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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