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Fatal crashes across Virginia drop in 2018, but alcohol-related deaths rise

(WSAZ)
Published: Apr. 10, 2019 at 5:21 PM EDT
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The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says the overall number of traffic crash fatalities went down in 2018.

However, alcohol-related fatalities and some other categories went up.

The DMV's Highway Safety Office released the crash statistics on Wednesday and they are now available on the state agency's Traffic Records Electronic Data System.

According to a release, the number of overall crash fatalities decreased for the first time since 2014, down from 843 in 2017 to 819 in 2017.

The DMV says even with this four-percent decrease, the total number is still much higher than the record low of 2014, which was 700.

There were also increases in several categories of crashes, including alcohol-related, teen driver-related, speed-related and pedestrian.

"Any time the number of people killed in senseless crashes goes down instead of up, that's a good thing. However, we still have a long way to go toward our goal of reaching zero fatalities in Virginia," said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb. "Just four years ago, we were able to save 119 more lives on our roadways that we could this year. I challenge Virginians to drive the numbers even lower this year. Everyone can do their part by following the posted speed limit, focusing behind the wheel, always buckling up, and never driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol."

There was a 12-percent increase in alcohol-related fatalities, up from 248 in 2017 to 278 last year.

The DMV reports this was the highest number of fatalities involving alcohol since 2010.

For speed-related fatalities, the number went up seven percent from 318 to 339, tying a decade high.

And for pedestrian fatalities, there was an eight-percent increase from 114 to 123, which is the highest number since 2009.

The category that saw the largest increase was teen driver-related fatalities for drivers between the ages of 15 and 19, which went up 23 percent from 57 to 70.

The number of bicyclist fatalities stayed the same for both years at 13.

Unrestrained fatalities, or people who were not wearing a seat belt, dropped by three percent from 308 to 298.

The number of mature driver-related fatalities decreased by 11 percent from 200 to 179, and the number of motorcyclist fatalities went down 18 percent from 107 to 88.

The biggest decrease reported was in distracted driving-related fatalities, which dropped 39 percent from 208 to 126.

However, the DMV says there was a change in the way distraction-involved crashes are reported in 2018, which is a factor in the difference between 2017 and 2018.

The DMV says distracted driving crashes are typically very under-reported, as they rely heavily on either the individual or law enforcement to report it.

The agency says police officers were also sometimes selecting the wrong option on their crash reports regarding distracted driving, so it conducted education programs to help them better determine how such crashes should be designated.

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