Virginia police aim to reduce distracted driving accidents

Distracted driving accidents injure hundreds of thousands of drivers across the country every year.

Throughout southwest Virginia, state troopers are working in unmarked vehicles to help catch motorists engaged in texting while driving. Through the program, a trooper riding in the passenger seat of an unmarked car looks for violators and takes photos of people using their cellphones illegally while their vehicles are in motion. After that, officers may pull over the violators, issuing a citation.

According to 13 News Now, this marks a new way for law enforcement officers to ticket drivers for an illegal practice that has been difficult to enforce in the past. Now, police will have photo evidence that the crime took place, and guilty drivers will have more difficulty denying they were texting while driving. In a recent effort in Roanoke, police gave citations to more than 20 drivers.

Texting while driving is a primary offense in Virginia, and law enforcement officers are allowed to pull over drivers they see engaged in this dangerous practice. These citations come with a $125 fine on the first offense and a $250 fine on the second offense.

Distracted driving causes accidents

The recent Virginia State Police efforts are not simply about issuing more tickets, however. The agency aims to curb texting while driving, which is known to increase the likelihood of crashes. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 600,000 people across the country are using mobile devices while driving at any given moment, with people under 20 representing the largest age group responsible for distracted driving accidents.

The NHTSA also reports that responding to the average text message takes a motorist's eyes off the road for about five seconds, enough time to travel the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour. It is also plenty of time for a car accident to occur, as drivers who are not watching the road are unable to take the steps necessary to adjust their speed or direction to avoid a serious crash.

Although it is most commonly associated with cellphones, distracted driving includes any activity that takes a person's attention away from the primary task of operating a motor vehicle. This may involve eating and drinking, putting on makeup, talking with passengers, watching videos, adjusting the radio and reading maps. All motorists have a responsibility to act in a reasonably safe manner when driving their vehicles, but engaging in distracted driving endangers everyone on Virginia's roads and highways.

The problem of distracted driving is big, and continues to grow nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about nine people die each day from distracted driving-related accidents across the U.S., with another 1,153 injured. Many of these crashes could be avoided if drivers simply exercised greater caution.

After a serious auto accident you believe was the result of texting while driving or another form of distracted driving, you may need to seek compensation for medical bills, lost wages or pain and suffering. Learn more about your legal options by speaking with an experienced Roanoke personal injury attorney.

Keywords: distracted, driving, accident, injury