Apr 4, 2024 - News

Why Virginia drivers might see more police this weekend

Illustration of a roadway on a cracked phone screen.

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Virginians will likely see more law enforcement on the roads this weekend.

The big picture: It's part of a new "Put the Phone Away or Pay" campaign from highway safety regulators to reduce distracted driving, reports Axios' Joann Muller.

  • The crackdown from police will target drivers 18 to 34, who are the most likely to die in distraction-related crashes, and run from Thursday to Monday.

Why it matters: Distracted driving is a major cause of U.S. traffic deaths and injuries.

Estimated change in vehicle-related fatalities, 2022 to 2023
Data: U.S. Department of Transportation; Map: Thomas Oide/Axios

By the numbers: Vehicle-related deaths in Virginia dropped 9.2% between 2022 and 2023, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released this week.

Yes, but: That still translates to 915 people killed last year.

  • At least 28 of those deaths were in Richmond, per an Axios analysis of data mapped by the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • 2,944 more people were injured.

State of play: It's been illegal to text while driving in Virginia since 2020 and illegal to hold a phone while driving since 2021, with a $125 for first-time offenses.

  • And a recent study found that state laws banning handheld phones while driving can be an effective deterrent.

Reality check: There are other reasons people get distracted behind the wheel, including eating, talking or adjusting the radio.

  • Distraction was involved in 901 of the 5,662 traffic-related crashes in Richmond in 2023. A smaller number (70) involved a driver using their phone and 8 involved texting.
  • But it's also happening as bigger (and deadlier) SUVs and trucks are becoming more popular.

The bottom line: Put your phone down. Watch the speed limit. And keep your eyes on the road.

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