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GETTING THERE: Will vaccinations impact gas prices in 2021?
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GETTING THERE: Will vaccinations impact gas prices in 2021?

Pumping gas

Gas prices could spike as the U.S. recovers from COVID.

If 2020 still has you feeling gassed, you might not like what could happen with prices at the pump this year.

Area gas prices continually hovered around $2 a gallon in 2020.

If the world starts to recover from the pandemic in 2021, gas prices could spike.

So says Gasbuddy, the online fuel tracking website.

Last week, Gasbuddy predicted that “2021 may feature a sharp rally in gas prices by year end.” The company warned that “the national average could rise to as high as $3 per gallon should the nation broadly recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Don’t get too discouraged. Gasbuddy expects the average increase of gas prices will be “a more modest 27 cents per gallon in 2021” if this turns out to be a pandemic bounce-back year.

Gasbuddy petroleum analyst Patrick De Haan said the year ahead certainly is unpredictable because of the pandemic, but if there is a broad recovery he believes gas prices will “stay far under their previous records.”

New cellphone law

In case you missed The Free Lance Star’s Sunday story, it is now illegal for drivers to hold and use a smartphone while driving, whether it’s to read a text or email or to make or answer a call.

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The law also bars drivers from just holding a phone while in a work zone.

There are exceptions. Emergency responders are exempt. The law also allows drivers to use phones while parked or stopped and to report emergencies.

The fine for a first offense is $125. Subsequent offenses, and the work zone infraction, carry a $250 fine.

There were an estimated 17,149 distracted driving crashes on state roads in 2020, resulting in 119 deaths and 9,493 injuries, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. Distracted driving includes using phones but also other diversions that take a driver’s attention off the road.

Roadway safety in 2020

Speaking of crashes, 2020’s overall data for Virginia has some obvious differences from years past, because of COVID-19, but also an odd outlier.

As expected, since traffic dropped after the pandemic hit, crashes and injuries also decreased. Deadly crashes, on the other hand, increased.

Police have reported spikes in speed-related crashes during the pandemic. Maybe that explains the statistical oddity with deadly crashes.

Here’s the breakdown:

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles preliminary 2020 figures, there were an estimated 96,013 crashes with 48,103 injuries and 840 deaths (November and December figures appear to still be low and likely will be adjusted).

In 2019, there were 128,172 crashes, 65,708 injuries and 827 deaths.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

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