Stricter Drunk Driving Laws Reduce Traffic Fatalities

The Washington Post reports that traffic-related deaths and severe injuries are falling in Virginia. Official data shows that, between 2007 and 2010, the number of traffic fatalities fell from 1,026 to 740, and severe injuries from 19,796 to 11,664. Safety advocates attribute these declines to stricter DUI laws, increased seat belt use and stricter licensing requirements for young drivers.

Our auto accident lawyers have always endorsed measures and laws aimed at improving road safety. Virginia’s positive results are an encouraging development. According to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles DUI statistics, alcohol-related crashes caused the deaths of 245 people and injured another 5465 people in 2011.

Virginia is one of 14 states that have mandatory ignition interlock provisions for all offenses. A new law that came into force in July this year increased the number of people required to use ignition interlock devices to more than 18,000. The ignition interlock prevents the vehicle from starting if the driver’s blood alcohol content exceeds 0.02 percent. Even those convicted with a DUI for the first time now require ignition interlocks. The offender will have to bear the cost of installing and monitoring the ignition interlock device, with a high fee of $480 for a six-month installation.

Seat belts are considered the best defense for passengers in a crash. The Baltimore Sun reported a series of crashes in 2011, where failure to wear a seat belt proved fatal for the driver. Research shows that the use of lap/shoulder seat belts reduces the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passenger car occupants by 45 percent, and the risk of moderate-to-critical injury by 50 percent. Moreover, teenagers have the lowest rate of seat belt use compared with other age groups.

It therefore comes as no surprise that Virginia’s strict seat belt laws are paying off. In Virginia, seat belt use is mandatory for drivers and front seat passengers 18 years of age and older, and all passengers younger than 18, whether they are in the front seat or the back.

New laws in many states are specifically targeting young, at-risk drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), restrictions are very effective in reducing the number of car crashes among young drivers. Curfew laws in Virginia prohibit a licensed or learner driver under age 18 from driving between midnight and 4 A.M., when most crashes occur.

Virginia’s cellular telephone law also restricts a driver under age 18 from using a cell phone or any other wireless telecommunications device. Allowances for curfew and cell phone use are made only for emergencies and certain exceptional situations.

The teen practice of carefree cruising with a lot of companions piled in the car has also come under the radar in many states. Most teenage passenger deaths occur in a car with a teenage driver. A New York Times article says that distractions like talking to friends, listening to the radio, and texting while driving have been shown in proportion with the number of passengers in the car.

Graduated driver licensing provisions also help teenagers drive safely. This three-stage program helps new teen drivers slowly develop their driving skills and experience on the road. Virginia is among the 38 states that have implemented these provisions.

Car crash lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm warn of the serious dangers of drunk driving and reckless or distracted teenage driving. It’s obvious that Virginia’s tough stand in implementing driving laws is paying off. Other states, especially those that have a high traffic fatality rate, should strive to enforce similar regulations. The number of accidents is still high, but stricter traffic regulations can help reduce the number of serious car crashes.

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