April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance reminds Virginians to keep their eyes on the road if they want to save lives and property and keep their auto insurance costs down. “Multi-tasking behind the wheel can be hazardous to your health,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Jacqueline K. Cunningham. “Stay focused on what’s ahead when driving if you want to reduce your chances of being in an accident and potentially paying higher auto insurance premiums.”
Eight out of 10 traffic accidents in Virginia are related to a distracted driving incident, according to DRIVE SMART Virginia, a non-profit organization charged with raising awareness and changing behavior in order to improve the safety of Virginia’s roadways. Motor vehicle crashes caused by distracted drivers result in an estimated 3,000 deaths and 400,000 injuries in the United States annually, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Texting is a major culprit when it comes to distracted driving. When you text and drive, you are 23 times more likely to be in an accident, according to a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. However, anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road can cause distracted driving. Reaching for an object, eating, talking on the phone (hand-held or hands-free), applying makeup, reading, and adjusting clothing are just a few of the many other behaviors that distract drivers and increase their likelihood of being involved in a crash.
The Bureau of Insurance reminds Virginians of the potential insurance consequences if they take their eyes off the road while driving and get a ticket or cause an accident.” If you or a member of your family has caused a traffic accident or has been convicted of a traffic violation such as speeding or reckless driving, the price you must pay to obtain auto insurance may be higher,” Cunningham said.
Insurance companies may increase your insurance premium for traffic violations or automobile accidents where you, a member of your household, or other customary operator of the vehicle was either wholly or partially at fault. This extra charge may be applied for as long as three years. In some cases, an insurance company may refuse to renew your auto insurance policy if you have even one ticket or accident that is your fault. Your driving record can affect not only your insurance, but the insurance policies of other members of your household. Even if they are on a different policy, they can be non-renewed because of your driving record.
The Bureau reminds Virginians to know what to do if they are involved in an accident. Call the police immediately if someone is injured; obtain information from other affected parties including name, address, registration number, insurance company, and driver’s license number; note the time, date, location, road conditions, and make and year of any vehicles involved in the accident; notify your insurance agent or company as soon as possible; obtain names and addresses of all witnesses and individuals involved in the accident; and take reasonable steps to protect your property from further damage.
The Bureau of Insurance stands ready to assist Virginians with their questions regarding auto and many other types of insurance. For more information, call the Bureau toll-free at 1-877-310-6560 or in Richmond at (804) 371-9741 or visit its website at www.scc.virginia.gov/boi.
For more information regarding distracted driving and other driver safety topics, visit the DRIVE SMART Virginia website at www.drivesmartva.org