According to the Virginia Highway Safety Office, motor vehicle accidents were among the leading causes of death in the state during the year 2012. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports that nearly 122,000 crashes resulted in over 700 deaths and roughly 65,000 injuries during 2013. Nationally, 35,092 individuals were killed in vehicle accidents during 2015. This is up from 32,744 in 2014, an increase of 7.2 percent—the largest percentage increase in almost fifty years.
Leading Causes of Vehicle Collisions
Traffic on U.S. roadways continues to increase, and with so many vehicles on the road, there are many reasons for car wrecks. Some of the leading causes of vehicle collisions include:
- Distracted driving. Distracted driving is responsible for the greatest number of vehicle accidents nationwide. Eighty percent of all collisions and 65 percent of all near-collisions in Virginia are caused by behaviors such as texting, email, and using social media.
- Drunk driving. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles reports that 24,895 drivers were convicted of a DUI in 2014. Nationally, 1.9% of adults admitted that they drove after drinking too much, while only 1.4% of Virginians said they drove while drunk. Although Virginia’s percentage of those individuals driving while intoxicated is lower than the national average, drunk driving in Virginia still resulted in 253 deaths and 5,288 accidents during 2013.
- Drugged driving. About 4.3 percent of individuals polled nationally admitted to driving under the influence of illicit drugs. Virginia residents reported the same percentage as the national result. About 20 percent of drunk drivers nationally were also under the influence of drugs.
- Direction of travel. Nearly half of all Virginia vehicles involved in collisions in 2013 were traveling in a straight line, and 14% of cars involved in accidents were stopped in a traffic lane. Ten percent of vehicles left the road, nearly eight percent were slowing or stopping, and three percent were changing lanes. Nearly nine percent of vehicles involved in collisions were turning left, while only three percent were turning right.
- Defective parts. Vehicles have hundreds of parts, and if any of them are defective, they can potentially cause an accident. The most common vehicle defects that resulted in collisions were brake failures and tire blowouts.
- Violation of traffic laws. Nearly half of the drivers involved in crashes during 2013 committed no violation. Of those who did, the most common violations included:
- Following too closely
- Failing to yield
- Making an improper lane change
- Weather conditions. When the weather turns nasty, so do the roads. Snow and ice can create slick surfaces that cause vehicles to lose traction, while fog can make visibility incredibly poor. Nearly 14 percent of collisions took place while it was raining, two percent while snow was falling, and nearly two percent in fog.
- Reckless driving. Speeding, tailgating, and passing aggressively are all forms of reckless driving. Tailgating is particularly dangerous because driving too close to another vehicle means that a driver cannot react in time if the vehicle he is following brakes suddenly. Fatal vehicle accidents frequently result from tailgating at high speeds. The state of Virginia is tough on drivers who are impatient and reckless. If you’re traveling at over 80 miles per hour, or at any speed 20 miles or more over the limit, you’re guilty of reckless driving. If you’re charged with reckless driving, you face the same penalties as those guilty of a DUI.
- Running red lights. Over 900 people per year lose their lives and another 2,000 are injured due to vehicles running red lights.
- Hit-and-run accidents. Fatal hit-and-run crashes have been steadily rising since 2009. There were 1,274 such accidents in 2009, 1,393 in 2010, and 1,449 in 2011. These crashes are responsible for about 20 percent of pedestrian fatalities.
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