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GETTING THERE: Coalition brings attention to distracted driving
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GETTING THERE: Coalition brings attention to distracted driving


Last week, advocates from road safety groups joined the National Transportation Safety Board in announcing the formation of the National Distracted Driving Coalition.

The coalition will focus on cutting down the growing problem of distracted drivers.

More than 3,100 people died across the country in distracted driving crashes in 2019, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. That total is up from the 2,858 distracted driving-related crashes in 2018.

The group wants to see more states institute laws against drivers using cellphones.

Bruce Landsberg, National Transportation Safety Board vice chairman, talks about the problem of distracted driving.

“In no other mode of transportation would we accept the kind of carnage that we have on our highways,” Bruce Landsberg, vice chairman of the NTSB, said during a press conference announcing the coalition. “Distracted driving is one significant and growing part of that. It has to stop. We’re killing literally thousands of people every year.”

Landsberg also highlighted the “life-altering injuries, which are measured in the hundreds of thousands,” caused by distracted drivers.

Landsberg advocated for more stringent regulations, touting the NTSB’s recommendation that use of all electronic devices be banned for drivers, except in an emergency.

No state has adopted the ban.

As it stands, 24 states and D.C. prohibit driver use of phones. Forty-eight states and D.C. prohibit texting by drivers.

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Other speakers announcing the coalition formed nonprofit groups after losing family members to distracted drivers.

One of those speakers was Steve Kiefer, whose son Mitchell died in a 2016 crash after a distracted driver rammed into the back of the Michigan State University student’s car.

He eventually established a nonprofit, the Kiefer Foundation, to battle distracted driving.

“Frankly, this is a global problem and we’ve taken this message around the world,” he said. “I’m hoping with the support of this coalition that we’re able to change behavior around the world and save lives.”

Distracted drivers also are causing havoc on Virginia roads.

There have been 54,233 crashes caused by distracted drivers statewide since 2019, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles data. Those crashes resulted in 30,122 injuries and 328 deaths.

Steve Kiefer, whose son died in a 2016 crash involving a distracted driver, talks about a new coalition’s efforts to cut down on distracted driving.

Since distracted driving can include cellphone use along with other factors—fiddling with the radio, eating and so on—the DMV also has categories for drivers using phones and texting.

Statewide since 2019, there have been 3,892 crashes involving drivers using a phone, with 2,061 injuries and 17 deaths. During the same period, texting drivers caused 367 crashes, with 187 injuries and eight deaths.

There also have been plenty of distracted driving crashes locally—Fredericksburg and the counties of Stafford and Spotsylvania—the past three years.

According to the DMV, since 2019 there have been 2,702 local crashes caused by distracted drivers (including phone use and texting), with 1,592 injuries and 11 deaths.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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