Governor Northam announces results of digital town hall on distracted driving

Distracted Driving

© Andrey Popov

Governor Ralph Northam today shared the results of #YourSayVA Digital Town Hall, the Commonwealth’s first online safety feedback forum, which took place in December.

Over 2,000 people participated in the eleven question anonymous survey, which revealed Virginians’ thoughts on distracted driving, its prevalence, and potential influences for people to avoid distractions while behind the wheel.

“We know that distracted driving is a fast-growing epidemic in the Commonwealth and the 93 percent of town hall participants who agreed is a clear indication that this serious safety issue is a concern of nearly all Virginians,” said Governor Northam. “Changing the culture of distraction on our roadways is each of our responsibility, and with this input we can work together to promote safe driving behavior, reverse this dangerous trend, and save countless lives.”

Respondents rated distracted driving as the most serious of seven highway safety issues provided for ranking, followed closely by drunk driving. Aggressive driving and drugged driving were ranked third and fourth, followed by drowsy driving, speeding and not wearing seat belts, respectively. The words most used by respondents to describe distracted drivers were dangerous, irresponsible, selfish, and deadly.

“While the vast majority of Virginians said distracted driving is a serious problem, nearly 80 percent candidly admitted that they at least sometimes use their cellphones while driving,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “However, they also indicated that family and friends have the power to influence them to put the phone down.”

The results of the Digital Town Hall, which closed December 31, were compiled by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for the Governor’s Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety. Comprised of representatives from the Virginia Departments of Motor Vehicles, Transportation, State Police, Health and Education, and led by the Secretaries of Transportation and Public Safety and Homeland Security, the team is charged with reducing the number of fatalities on Virginia’s roadways. In 2018, 126 people died in distracted driving-related crashes in Virginia.

“With the awareness created by this town hall, we hope Virginians will motivate each other to ditch distractions and focus on the task of driving,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian J. Moran. “Seventy percent of respondents said that, as passengers, they have asked a driver to put their phone away on at least one occasion. Virginians are clearly tired of sharing the roads with distracted, unsafe drivers who put their loved ones at risk.”

Among the 2,084 survey respondents, more than half were between the ages of 36 and 64. Nearly 17 percent of the respondents were in the 18 to 25 age range. A common theme emerged in the town hall analysis was a belief by respondents that drivers were addicted to phone use and felt compelled to interact with their phones while driving and that time was critical to that interaction. A compounding factor was the influence of an auditory cue by a phone to that generates an instant response.

The complete results of the Digital Town Hall are available on Virginia’s new highway safety portal, Part of the Commonwealth’s efforts in the national Toward Zero Deaths highway safety movement, the website equips Virginians with the tools necessary to make lifesaving driving decisions and serves as the Commonwealth’s resource for the most comprehensive traffic safety information.

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