Is Distracted Driving Fueling a Spike in Fatal Road Accidents in Virginia?

In an era when car manufacturers are spending billions of dollars on new safety features and automation that’s intended to protect motorists, it’s alarming that we are seeking a spike in fatal road accidents.

Traffic deaths surged about 8 percent in the first nine months of 2016, continuing a trend seen the previous year.

The trend was also seen closer to home. Virginia Highway Safety Office is yet to release its 2016 Traffic Crash Facts report. The 2015 Traffic Crash Facts report highlights an upsurge in all road accidents in the Commonwealth including fatalities.

The report says 753 people were killed in 2015, a 7.57 rise on 2014. There were 125,800 crashes that were reported to police – up 4.5 percent on the previous year and 65,029 injuries, a rise of 2.6 percent. Although the number of registered drivers in Virginia increased, the 1.89 percent rise was less than the spike in deaths and injuries.

One piece of good news is the statistic related to drunk driving crashes. There were 241 fatalities in 2015, down 5.12 percent from the previous year.

In the past, drunk drivers accounted for as many as half of all fatal crashes in the United States. The alarming question is if DUI accidents are falling and manufactures are making safer cars, why is the death toll rising?

Spike in Fatal Road Accidents Comes as Drunk Driving Wrecks are Decreasing

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, business leader Warren Buffett blamed an upsurge in texting and other distracted driving.

The New York Times blamed the biggest spike in fatal road accidents in 50 years on the development of mobile apps, specifically:

  1. Snapchat that encourages drivers to post their speed on its app;
  2. Waze which rewards drivers with points if they report congestion and wrecks;
  3. PokémonGo, although the craze for ‘collecting’ virtual Pokémon is declining in popularity.

Alarmingly, the trend remains upwards. In the first three-quarters of 2016, there were 27,875 highway deaths nationally, compared to 25,808 in the first three quarters of 2015. Speculation has also centered on the legalization or marijuana in more states and whether it fuelled drugged driving.

Hampton Roads cities saw some of the highest numbers of deaths in Virginia in 2015. Chesapeake with 18 deaths saw the largest loss of life of any city in the state. There were 16 deaths in Virginia Beach and 15 people lost their lives in Suffolk, Norfolk, and Newport News. Hampton recorded eight deaths and Portsmouth five.

The most deadly roads in Virginia are in Fairfax County where 30 people were killed in 2015.

There was mixed news for cyclists and pedestrians in the 2015 Virginia stats. The number of pedestrian deaths fell from 90 in 2014 to 78 in 2015 but deaths of cyclists rose from 12 to 15.

If you have been injured on the road or Virginia or if you have lost a loved one, call us today at (757) 455-0077.

John Cooper

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