From South Hill to Arlington, Reedville to Abingdon, Richmond to Charlottesville and everywhere in between: How safe are Virginia roadways? We turned to the DMV’s 2017 Virginia Crash Facts publication to learn more.
1. In Virginia, 843 people lost their lives in motor vehicle crashes in 2017―a 10.8% increase over 2016. Another 65,000 people suffered auto accident-related injuries. While motor vehicle-related deaths are surprisingly high in the U.S. overall as compared with other high-income nations around the world, Virginia ranks fairly low on the list compared with our fellow states. Still, the same three major factors that contribute to nationally high auto-related death rates are also true in Virginia:
2. One out of every 26 Virginia drivers was involved in a car or truck accident in 2017. While teenagers have taken the heat as notoriously bad drivers for years, the rest of us aren’t exempt. Drivers, passengers, and pedestrians aged 21 to 35 topped the charts in 2017 in terms of crash-related injuries while teen driver fatalities actually decreased 35.6% from 2016 to 2017.
3. Seat belts still save lives. Over 50% of all 2017 Virginia traffic fatalities occurred when the driver or passengers were unrestrained. Most Americans understand the lifesaving value of buckling up, but millions of people risk their lives daily by ignoring seat belt safety. With an adherence rate of 78%, Virginians lag behind the national average of 86% seat belt use. Remember: You can reduce your risk of serious injury and death by up to 50% just by following seat belt laws and recommendations.
4. Distracted driving caused more than 20% of all crashes and 25% of traffic fatalities. We know we shouldn’t text and drive, but cell phone use while driving still accounted for 6% of 2017 crashes and 3.4% of fatalities. Cell phones come in third on the DMV’s list of the top three crash-causing distractions:
Keep your eyes on the road at all times when behind the wheel!
5. Alcohol-related crashes comprise 5.7% of all traffic accidents in Virginia and almost 30% of fatalities. The good news is that Virginia reports slightly lower alcohol-related traffic fatalities than the national average―about one in three traffic deaths in the United States involve a drunk driver. The bad news is that, on average, two out of every three Virginians will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime.
6. Virginia saw an 8% increase in crashes where drivers were both distracted AND under the influence. Alcohol-impaired drivers already experience slow reaction times, reduced ability to concentrate, decreased vision, and poor coordination. Any form of additional distraction adds to the danger and likelihood of a collision.
7. Only 1.3% of all crashes involved pedestrians, but pedestrians accounted for 13.5% of all 2017 Virginia traffic fatalities. Nationally, pedestrian deaths are more common in rural areas, but Virginia statistics show that urban pedestrians still need to be cautious. With increasing technology under the hood and inside the dash, car manufacturers aim to keep drivers safe, but for pedestrians, any vehicle in motion can be deadly.
8. Jaywalking was cited as the cause for almost 30% of pedestrian fatalities. It may seem safe enough to step out into the street after you’ve looked both ways, but just because you don’t see a vehicle coming doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Stick to crosswalks, obey traffic signals and laws, and stay alert.
9. Motorcycle accident fatalities increased almost 50% from 2016 to 2017. Because motorcyclists lack the enclosed protection that vehicles offer, it’s no surprise that accidents involving motorcycles can be deadly. And they’re costly in terms of both lives and dollars: The national economic burden of motorcycle deaths and injuries totals over $12 billion per year. If you’re driving a car or truck, actively look for motorcycles on the road and be vigilant to share the road safely.
10. Even though motorcycles were involved in less than 2% of all Virginia crashes, fatalities from motorcycle accidents accounted for nearly 13% of all deaths. So, what’s the solution if you’re not ready to stop riding? Helmets, helmets, helmets. Motorcyclists can reduce their risk of head injury by nearly 70% and the risk of death by over 40% simply by donning a helmet before every ride, which is why wearing one while riding is Virginia law.
While heading out on the roadways will always pose some inherent danger, there are precautions you can take to help ensure you stay as safe as possible. Always wear your seatbelt, never drink and drive, minimize distractions, and obey all traffic laws.