Texts=Wrecks: Just say no to reckless driving
And help teens say no, too
During our Texts = Wrecks campaign, we at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys are writing and talking about the dangers of distracted driving, which is one form of reckless driving.
Under Virginia law, “Any person who drives a vehicle on any highway recklessly, or at a speed or in a manner so as to endanger the life, limb, or property of any person shall be guilty of reckless driving.” “Reckless” means “marked by a lack of proper caution, careless of consequences, irresponsible.”
Texting while driving is certainly reckless. As we approach spring (which includes graduations, senior proms, and other parties), we’ll also be talking about driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DUI), or driving while impaired (DWI). These are also forms reckless driving.
Together, these two take 10,000 lives each year in the United States. That’s because motor vehicles are heavy, powerful machines, and they become lethal weapons in the hands of distracted or drunk drivers.
Sadly, in more than one-third of fatal teen-driver accidents, alcohol is a factor. It’s important to recognize that most teens do not tolerate alcohol as well as adults. So alcohol, when combined with driving inexperience, puts teens at a double disadvantage.
What’s being done to prevent impaired driving?
Despite all the publicity and campaigns, high school teens are still driving after drinking about 2.4 million times a month. In fact, the national epidemic of drunk driving led our federal government to commission a study, which resulted in a 489-page report earlier this year. The report had several suggestions for reducing impaired driving among all ages:
- Lower the legal BAC level. The report’s top recommendation was to lower the blood-alcohol concentration level (BAC) to be legally considered under the influence — from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent. A BAC of 0.05 percent would make a 150-pound man over the legal limit after two beers, and a 120-pound woman over the limit after one drink, according to the American Beverage Institute.
- Raise taxes on alcoholic beverages to make them less affordable.
- Limit the number of days and hours that stores, bars, and restaurants can legally sell alcohol.
- Crack down on sales of alcohol to those under 21 years old.
Some of these might work. For example, the National Transportation Safety Board pointed out that in Europe, traffic deaths attributed to impaired driving have decreased by more than 50 percent in the 10 years since most countries adopted a 0.05 DUI threshold.
We don’t know whether Virginia will join Utah and some other states in adopting these government recommendations, but we do know that impaired driving continues to be deadly. People driving under the influence end an average of 29 lives per day in the United States and cause more than one-fourth of all traffic deaths.
Closer to home, both my partner, Ken Gibson, and I were seriously injured by drunk drivers. So we speak from experience when we say: “It’s NEVER worth it. Don’t drink and drive!”
What can we parents do to prevent drunk driving among teens?
A related question for all of us as parents is “What can we do to help our teens?” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some good suggestions:
- Be a good role model. We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys have encouraged you to never text while driving because it sends the wrong message to your kids. Likewise, put your words about drinking and driving into action. If you’ve had a drink, don’t drive. Take it seriously, and your children and teenagers will too.
- Communicate openly. The more you learn about teen drinking and driving, the more evidence you have to show your children that it’s a terrible idea. At the same time, you can listen to their concerns, talk with them about peer pressure, and pay attention to their friends’ actions and their feelings. By being honest and authentic, you’ll promote honesty in your teens.
- Make a contract with your teen driver. The CDC gives a sample parent-teen driving agreement that you can fill out with your young driver. It includes obeying the laws of the road, not driving distracted, and consequences for breaking the rules.
- We also recommend making a deal with your teen that he or she can call you anytime to get a ride home after drinking alcohol. Ideally, your teenagers won’t be in the 50 percent of young adults age 12-20 who experiment with drinking. But if they do, you want them to call you, instead of trying to drive or ride home with an also-tipsy friend. Make it clear that their safety comes first, and your disappointment isn’t as important as their lives.
As parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends, we’re all the front line of defense for young people. If we do our part and talk early and often about the dangers of distracted and drunk driving with our children, we can make a difference.
What can you do if you or a loved one are hurt by a reckless driver?
We all know we can’t control everything: millions of drivers of all ages still drink and drive every day. But if you have been injured or lost a loved one in a drunk driving accident in Virginia, the responsible driver needs to be held accountable for his or her choices. You and your family deserve compensation from the driver and insurance company.
We at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys know these cases all too well because we have lived through them. To find out how we can help you, call (804) 413-6777 for a free consultation.
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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.
- Safety Education
GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
- Annual Coat Drive
During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
- Hands-on Service
John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
- Supporting Local Schools
The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.