Virginia Town Hall: Distracted Driving Most Serious Concern

"While the vast majority of Virginians said distracted driving is a serious problem, nearly 80 percent candidly admitted that they at least sometimes use their cellphones while driving," said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. "However, they also indicated that family and friends have the power to influence them to put the phone down."

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced that more than 2,000 people participated in the #YourSayVA Digital Town Hall, the Commonwealth's first online safety feedback forum that took place in December. They answered an 11-question anonymous survey about distracted driving, its prevalence, and potential influences for people to avoid distractions while behind the wheel. Respondents rated distracted driving as the most serious of seven highway safety issues provided for ranking, followed closely by drunk driving. Aggressive driving and drugged driving were ranked third and fourth, followed by drowsy driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts. The words most used by respondents to describe distracted drivers were dangerous, irresponsible, selfish, and deadly.

"We know that distracted driving is a fast-growing epidemic in the Commonwealth and the 93 percent of town hall participants who agreed is a clear indication that this serious safety issue is a concern of nearly all Virginians," Northam said May 14. “Changing the culture of distraction on our roadways is each of our responsibility, and with this input we can work together to promote safe driving behavior, reverse this dangerous trend, and save countless lives."

"While the vast majority of Virginians said distracted driving is a serious problem, nearly 80 percent candidly admitted that they at least sometimes use their cellphones while driving," added Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. "However, they also indicated that family and friends have the power to influence them to put the phone down."

The results of the Digital Town Hall were compiled by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for the Governor's Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety, which includes representatives from the Virginia Departments of Motor Vehicles, Transportation, State Police, Health and Education and is headed by the secretaries of Transportation and Public Safety and Homeland Security. The team is working to reduce fatalities on Virginia's roads. In 2018, 126 people died in distracted driving-related crashes in Virginia, according to the governor's news release.

"With the awareness created by this town hall, we hope Virginians will motivate each other to ditch distractions and focus on the task of driving,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. "Seventy percent of respondents said that, as passengers, they have asked a driver to put their phone away on at least one occasion. Virginians are clearly tired of sharing the roads with distracted, unsafe drivers who put their loved ones at risk."

More than half of the 2,084 survey respondents were between the ages of 36 and 64. Nearly 17 percent of the respondents were in the 18 to 25 age range.

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