Amid rise in road deaths, Va. says ‘put down the phone’

WASHINGTON — Virginia is launching a new effort to stop people from continuing to die on the state’s roads.

The first focus of the newly formed Executive Leadership Team on Highway Safety is distracted driving, but it expects to focus on additional areas like driver education, law enforcement and additional roadway design changes in the future.

Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine called distracted driving “a growing and tragic epidemic.”

“These injuries and fatalities, the devastating loss of life, the terrible loss to our communities, the irreparable loss to families, are all entirely and completely preventable,” Valentine said.

Last year, 843 people were killed on Virginia roads and nearly 15,000 were injured seriously enough for their injuries to be recorded in state records.

The number of deaths this year— more two per day so far — is up significantly from just a few years ago, and at least 208 of them are linked to distracted driving.

“You’re driving a multi-ton vehicle. You have to put those electronics down,” Virginia Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran said.

“We need to figure out a way, and I know we’re capable of it, to put that phone down.”

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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