“Texts=Wrecks” 2021: Learn how to keep your loved ones safer on the road
By Beth Gibson, Director of Community Outreach
More than 3,100 people died in the United States because of distracted driving in 2019, according to the NHTSA, and these tragic numbers keep climbing each year. In Virginia, more than 23,000 distracted driving accidents happened on our roads, resulting in more than 13,000 injuries and 120 deaths. Virginia lawmakers enacted new no-cellphone-while-driving laws this year, but unless every driver changes, no one is safe from a serious accident.
GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys wants to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers in Virginia by educating our neighbors about the dangers and sharing useful safety tips. While we all like to believe that we are already safe drivers, any of us can be distracted by a text message or even a discussion with a passenger while we are driving.
If we want to help protect our loved ones and make our roads safer for everyone, we may each have to change some of our ingrained habits.
How can I build safe driving habits?
Our law firm urges all drivers to think about the lives that can be destroyed if we text while driving. After all, drivers are three times more likely to be in a crash if they are interacting with a cellphone, according to research from Virginia Tech. Even a single glance away from the road puts you and your passengers in danger.
Here in Virginia, holding a phone while driving is not just dangerous, it’s illegal. Virginia passed a new cellphone ban just last year, which took effect January 1, 2021. Any driver who holds a cellphone or personal communication device while driving can be pulled over and fined $125 for the first offense or $250 for the second, according to Code of Virginia § 46.2-818.2.
But simply knowing that something is a crime doesn’t always prevent actions and accidents. For more than a decade, drivers have been distracted by their cellphones, and many have built up bad habits. The way to stop future accidents is for drivers to teach ourselves safer, better habits.
As John Singleton says, “As personal injury attorneys, we represent people who have been hurt. But our outreach has always been on how to prevent those injuries.”
To help you follow Virginia’s law and stay safer, we encourage you to:
- Learn about the dangers of distracted driving: The best place to start is educating yourself about results of distracted driving and the myths around multitasking. (Hint: it doesn’t exist).
- Remember that distracted driving is more than just cellphone use: Cellphone use is the most common form of distracted driving, but drivers can also be distracted visually, manually, and cognitively. Find out more about these, and be aware of when your mind is off of driving, and what is taking it there.
- Try out a distracted driving simulator online: This simple game can help you and your family understand how common and dangerous distractions can be.
- Get used to using a Bluetooth in your day-to-day life: Bluetooth devices are the only legal way to use a phone while driving, but you may not have much experience with them. Practicing with one at home can keep you from making fatal mistakes when on the road.
- Plan your drive ahead of time: Before you get into your car, deal with important calls, figure out what your route will be, and plan your schedule. Whether you’re taking a short drive or a long road trip, being prepared is important.
What are some practical ways to keep me from getting distracted?
Learning about distracted driving is only half the battle; the other half is putting safer driving habits into action. Most drivers have been distracted for years and find it difficult to unlearn dangerous behaviors, but there is hope! It’s never too late to learn new tricks and keep yourself – and others – safer on the road.
Here at GibsonSingleton, we advise drivers to train yourself in these new habits:
- Deal with all your tasks before you start your car: When you’re in a hurry to get the kids to school or get to work, you may think it’s OK to set up your GPS or take a call while you’re backing out of your driveway, but this is a huge mistake. Instead, handle those tasks before you start your car. When you get into the car, put your keys down, make sure your kids are settled, set your GPS, and deal with any notifications. Only after you are completely ready to go should you put your keys in the ignition.
- Put your phone in your glove box or backseat: Most people are glued to their phones, but putting it out of reach can help you break the habit of checking every notification.
- Get in the habit of pulling over: If you get lost, need to make an emergency call, or have to deal with a rowdy passenger, safely pull to the side of the road and deal with the issue. It may only add a minute or two to your route, and it can definitely help keep everyone safe.
- If you have an emergency, let a passenger handle it: If you desperately need to make a call or fix your GPS, ask one of your passengers to handle it for you, or pull over if you are alone. However, remember that talking to passengers is also a form of distracted driving.
- Use a safe-driving app to block calls: Both Android and iPhones have “Do Not Disturb Modes” that block messages, calls, and notifications while you are driving. The apps can be set up on multiple phones, including your children’s, and still allow emergency calls.
“Texts=Wrecks” campaign highlights
GibsonSingleton is working on several fronts to encourage people to stop driving while distracted:
- We are placing a banner in front of our office to remind people of the importance of focused driving.
- We have drafted an agreement card for teens, “Keys to Safe Driving,” based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We encourage parents to use it tomake a contract with their teen drivers: to obey the rules of the road, stay focused on driving, and follow the laws about using drugs and alcohol. Click the link above to download your copy of the card. You can also request the card in printed form by contacting us.
- Every spring, we offer a $1,000 college scholarshipto a high school or college student who writes a winning essay about how young people can drive more safely.
- We encourage every driver to download our printable card on “What should I do if I’m in a car accident?” Place it in your car, just in case. If an accident does occur, it can be hard to keep a cool head, and this card can help.
- We invite everyone to learn from John’s and Ken’s experiences as car accident victims and avoid the “7 Costly Mistakes” you can make after a crash.
For more information about our “Texts=Wrecks” Campaign, our safe driving agreement for teens, or our college scholarship, contact Beth Gibson, [email protected], or call our office at (804) 413-6777.
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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.