Virginia Sees Decrease In Crashes, But Increase In Deaths

The pandemic has impacted individuals across the world in a number of ways. From the loss of jobs, homes, and lives, COVID-19 and the year 2020 will become a moment in human history that is studied for years to come. In America during 2020, we saw a decrease in the number of cars on the road. This remained true for the state of Virginia. Naturally, this led to a decrease in the number of motor vehicle accidents in the state. Despite this decrease, the state did not see a drop in the number of deaths as a result of car accidents. These numbers have caused many professionals to contemplate why we have this trend and how to possibly solve this issue of motor vehicle deaths.

The Problem and The Fix

Virginia saw a 2.4 percent increase in car crash fatalities in 2020. That is a total of 847 people dying in car crashes in a year’s span.  This information is puzzling to some because there has been a decrease in the total number of crashes. The main causes of motor vehicle accident deaths have been driving while under the influence, speeding, and lack of seatbelts. These particular causes have seen an uptick by 16.3 percent. 

Since we understand the causes of the accidents, there have been various plans on how to reduce traffic fatalities. One possible solution would be to make not wearing a seatbelt a primary offense. Currently, police officers in Virginia are not allowed to stop or ticket a person if their only infraction is not wearing a seatbelt. This change in law has both advocates and opponents for a number of reasons. Here are some of the pros and cons of some proposed solutions for reducing car crash deaths in Virginia. 

Pros of  Primary Seatbelt Laws

Supporters of this proposal believe that if police officers are allowed to stop drivers for not wearing seatbelts, it will decrease the number of individuals driving without a seatbelt. The hope is that the fear of receiving a ticket will cause drivers to wear a seatbelt and encourage their passengers to do the same. Without it being a primary offense, drivers are not seeing any consequences for not putting on a seatbelt. Lack of seatbelts, however, continues to be a leading cause of loss of life in motor vehicle accidents.

“It’s unfortunate to see how many people don’t take life saving precautions seriously such as wearing a seatbelt,” said Attorney John Cooper of Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers. “With many of the injuries we see in the area, the worst ones could often be prevented by using safety equipment built into the vehicles such as seatbelts or blind spot monitoring.”

Cons of Primary Seatbelt Laws

One fear of making not wearing a seatbelt a primary offense is it will give too much power to officers. Opponents believe that such a law will aid in creating an authoritarian society.  Another fear is that if not wearing a seatbelt becomes a primary offense, marginalized groups will be disproportionately impacted. Some believe that this law will allow officers to target minorities who are not wearing a seatbelt. In a society where there have been major protests about discriminatory policing, increasing the level of policing of minorities is concerning. These opponents believe that despite the laws being efficient at accomplishing their goals, it is not worth the risk.

There is still work that needs to be done to prevent car crashes and reduce the number of people who die in these accidents. Fatalities are always tragedies. No plan is fool proof. However, it is the job of those in charge to create policies that will serve and protect everyone. It will be interesting to see what states across the nation do to stop the rise of deaths in motor vehicle accidents.