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Unlicensed to Kill: Deadly Virginia Car Crashes

According to a report issued by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, one out of every five fatal vehicle crashes involves a driver who is unlicensed. The report, entitled Unlicensed to Kill, was written by researchers from the Texas Transportation Institute located at Texas A&M University. The team used data from Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Unlicensed to Kill

The study found that 8,400 people die every year in accidents involving a driver who does not have a valid license. The study also found that 28 percent of those unlicensed drivers had received three or more license revocations or suspensions within the three years leading up to the deadly crash.

In a statement, lead researcher Lindsay I. Griffin pointed out the serious flaws in the current system, “It's like a revolving door. These people are being suspended and suspended and suspended again, and still, they're driving.”

During the five year period, the research team looked at, there were 183,749 fatal crashes which involved 278,078 drivers. Almost 14 percent of those drivers – 38,374 – did not have a valid license. Their licenses had been expired, suspended, canceled, revoked, or denied. Some drivers had no record or having a license at all.

The driving status of another 20 percent of drivers – 36,750 – was not classified because the crash was either a hit-and-run or police were unable to determine the status for unknown reasons.

Researchers found common characteristics among the unlicensed drivers:

  • One-third of these drivers were under the age of 20 years old;
  • The majority of drivers were male;
  • Fatal accidents involving unlicensed drivers occurred more in the early morning or late night hours;
  • Drivers with suspended license were three times more likely to be intoxicated when the accident occurred;
  • Drivers with revoked licenses were four times more likely to be intoxicated when the accident occurred;
  • In accidents where the hit-and-run driver was identified, the fleeing driver was five times more likely to be unlicensed than licensed.

The state with the highest amount of unlicensed fatal accidents was New Mexico, followed by Washington D.C., Arizona, California, and Hawaii. Law enforcement puts the blame on mild penalties for people who are caught driving without a license. In many jurisdictions, a person arrested for driving without a license only has to pay a fine and is then released. The study recommends passing more stringent rules, such as impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers. They also point to new technology in development that could help address the issue.

Contact a Virginia Car Accident Attorney

In Virginia, it has been determined that almost 20 percent of car accidents that kill at least one victim involve a driver who is unlicensed. Victims and their families who are killed or injured in auto accidents caused by unlicensed drivers should contact a skilled Virginia wrongful death attorney to find out what legal recourse they may have for their loss. Although nothing can ever replace the loss of a loved one, the financial expenses can be overwhelming.

Our Virginia injury law firm offers a free wrongful death guide for families who have lost a loved one in an accident. The guide covers topics such as the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim, what types of damages can be pursued, and who can be appointed as personal representative.


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