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The Year of Driving Dangerously: Unsafe driving behaviors on the rise

texting driving
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We’re speeding more, running red lights more often, texting while behind the wheel in traffic, driving while sleepy or under the influence of something we shouldn’t be.

This all according to a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which most alarmingly finds a 24 percent increase over the past year in drivers admitting to getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink.

These trends are in line with what we’re seeing at the macro level with traffic fatalities on the rise since 2020. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimated that 42,915 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes last year, a 10.5 percent increase from the 38,824 fatalities in 2020.

Virginia saw a sharp increase in traffic fatalities in 2021, with 968 crash fatalities in the Commonwealth last year, up 14 percent from the 847 deaths in 2020.

And this year is on track to surpass 2021’s numbers. Through the end of November, according to preliminary data from the Virginia DMV, there have been 922 crash fatalities in Virginia, 31 more than the 891 recorded during that same time period in 2021.

According to NHTSA, dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, alcohol impairment, and non-use of seatbelts account for a considerable proportion of the increased fatalities.

AAA urges drivers to keep everyone safe on the roads and warns motorists against falling back into dangerous driving habits.

“The increase in the number of U.S. drivers engaging in risky driving behavior is troubling,” said Morgan Dean, Public and Government Affairs Manager at AAA Mid-Atlantic.  “While drivers consistently acknowledge that certain risky behaviors behind the wheel, such as speeding and driving impaired, are not safe, many still engage in these activities anyway.”

AAA recommends these safety tips:

  • Out of sight, out of mind. Stow your smartphone away, turn it to airplane mode, or activate call/text blocking features like Apple’s Do Not Disturb.
  • Slow down. Drivers tend to overestimate the time saved by speeding. Speed kills and isn’t worth the cost.
  • Stay alert. Stop driving if you become sleepy because you can fall asleep anytime. Fatigue impacts reaction time, judgment, and vision.
  • Drive sober.  If you consume marijuana or alcohol, then don’t drive. If you are taking potentially impairing prescription medications, discuss with your doctor or pharmacist how best to stay safe AND healthy behind the wheel.
  • Buckle your seat belt for every ride. It does not matter where in the vehicle you are seated. A properly worn seatbelt is the most effective way to survive a traffic crash.

Chris Graham

In addition to being the editor of Augusta Free Press, I've written seven books, including Poverty of Imagination and Team of Destiny: Inside Virginia Basketball’s Run to the 2019 National Championship, both published in 2019, and The Worst Wrestling Pay-Per-View Ever, published in 2018. For my commentaries on news, sports and politics, go to my YouTube page, youtube.com/chrisgrahamAFP. Want to reach me? Try [email protected].