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How Does Virginia Rate in Highway Safety Laws?

The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety recently released their 2016 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws and according to the organization, there are 319 new laws that states need to adopt just to meet basic road safety criteria. This is the 13th year the report has been issued. And according to the report, the state of Virginia is lacking in several road safety areas.  


In 2014, there were 703 crash fatalities on Virginia roads. The ten-year loss of life total in Virginia crashes is 8,242 victims. The yearly economic cost due to motor vehicle crashes in Virginia is an astronomical $4.998 billion.  

The recommendation of the advocacy group for new statutes which Virginia lawmakers should put in place include:

  • A primary enforcement seat belt law for both front and rear occupants. Primary enforcement means law enforcement could stop a vehicle just for being unbelted. Secondary enforcement allows law enforcement to cite unbelted motorists only if they are stopped for another reason;
  • Changes to the current Virginia driver license process. The group recommends a graduated drivers licensing process (GDL) for teen drivers, minimum age of 16 for a learner’s permit, as well as nighttime restrictions, passenger restrictions, and cell phone restrictions; and
  •  Passage of an open container law. Currently, passengers are allowed to have an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.

In the past, when Virginia lawmakers have taken a tough stance against driving behaviors that were causing loss of life, there has been some success in decreasing the number of fatalities. For example, a decade ago, lawmakers passed dozens of new laws that created tougher penalties and sent a message of the state’s zero tolerance to repeat drunk driving offenders.  

In the ten years since, there has been an approximately 20 percent decrease in the number of drunk driving fatalities. There has been a 30 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes overall.

In civil cases involving personal injuries caused by negligent drivers or drunk drivers, Virginia personal injury attorneys are often able to utilize criminal statutes. Violations of traffic criminal statutes, if proved, are often admissible to help prove negligent conduct. This includes drunk driving cases where we often utilize alcohol levels or other elements of Virginia law to help prove damages and to help maximize recoveries in our personal injury cases involving drunk drivers.

If you have lost a loved one in a car crash, contact a dedicated Virginia wrongful death attorney to find out what legal options your family may have for the pain and loss you have suffered.

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