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VTTI’s data support need for hand-held phone ban

Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 6:16 PM EST
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - Friday, January 1, Virginia’s new hands-free driving law is set to go into effect.

Researchers at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute have been studying driving distractions for years.

“Our data really show that all of these types of tasks that involve handheld use that is banned in the cell phone law, those are the types of tasks that increase crashes the most,” said Dr. Charlie Klauer, a VTTI research scientist.

VTTI said 80% of the time there is a crash, that driver was distracted three seconds before it happened, and 65% of near-crashes are due to driver inattention.

“The more capable these phones become, the more dangerous they become,” Klauer said. “These touch screens require eyes off the roadway.”

Klauer said now that we’ve moved away from the flip phone days, eyes are off the road even longer. When VTTI started studying this behavior, it said people were distracted with more phone calls; now it’s browsing and scrolling on the touch screens.

“It is extremely dangerous behavior and it has caused a lot of crashes,” she said.

Virginia was the 22nd state to pass a hand-held phone ban and joins now 23 others trying to make driving just a little safer.

“We’ve all gotten into these bad habits of needing to have these phones everywhere we go, so we just need to change our behavior,” said Drive Smart Virginia Executive Director Janet Brooking.

Drive Smart Virginia has been campaigning for months to remind you this law is coming. It’s $125 the first time you’re caught and $250 every time after.

“Our research definitely supports the passing of this ban,” Klauer said.

It’s taking one more distraction off our hands.

“We fully expect many lives to be saved,” Brooking said.

You can find more information about the new law set to go into effect on Friday here. The General Assembly wants law enforcement to collect data, law enforcement to be trained and the general public to be educated on it.

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