The first month of 2012 has proved to be most deadly for Virginia teens. State police statistics highlighted by the private group Youth of Virginia Speak Out About Traffic Safety and law enforcement taskforce the Blue Ridge Regional Crash Investigation Teams indicate 11 people between the ages of 17 and 20 lost their lives in traffic accidents in just the first 24 days of the new year.
Fatalities among VA teenagers and young adults included six drivers and five passengers. Causes cited for the deadly wrecks were, in order of the most common, speeding, distracted driving and running off the road. A majority of the youngsters killed were not wearing seat belts at the time of the crashes, and alcohol use by the driver played a role in one of the fatal accidents.
These numbers are especially shocking when considered in light of the facts that just three teens died on Virginia roads during January 2011 and that fatalities among teenaged drivers and passengers hit record lows in the past two years. A representative crash occurred on January 23, 2012, in Franklin County, VA, when a 17-year-old driver lost control of her car while speeding on Booker T. Washington Highway/Virginia 122, crossed the center line, hit two vehicles traveling in the opposite direction, then ran off the side of the road and hit two more vehicles. A 17-year-old passenger in the car's front seat lost his life, and the driver and two other passengers sustained serious injuries. People in the struck vehicles were also hurt.
To prevent such tragedies, the safety and police organizations are urging teens to slow down, resist the urge to use cell phones to talk or text while driving, and always buckle up whether they are driving or riding. Parents and teachers also have key roles to play in providing driver training and educating young drivers about the dangers of ignoring posted speed limits and flouting laws banning cell phone use by drivers younger than 18.
This video from WAVY-TV 10 reinforces many of the teen driving safety messages:
As a Virginia personal injury and wrongful death attorney who has represented many victims of traffic accidents, I hope teens take these lessons to heart and the number of death among young drivers and passengers stop rising.
About the Editors: The Shapiro, Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm, which has offices in Virginia (VA) and North Carolina (NC), edits the injury law blogs Virginia Beach Injuryboard, Norfolk Injuryboard and Northeast North Carolina Injuryboard as pro bono services.