Virginia considered "dangerously behind" in driver safety laws

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety found Virginia to be one of 11 states considered "dangerously behind" in driving safety laws.

The study focused on five areas — occupant protection, child passenger safety, teen driving laws, impaired driving and distracted driving. Laws were identified in each of these categories that the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety says the commonwealth should have.

Virginia has only implemented six out of the 16 laws that the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety recommends.

The biggest area where the organization says Virginia fell short was teen driving laws. Of the five recommended laws in that category, the study says Virginia has only one in place.

Virginia also fell short in the distracted driving category. The study says it lacks a GDL cellphone restriction.

The commonwealth lost points for compliance with the open container law in the impaired driving category. The study also says it lacks the booster seat law in the child passenger safety section and was dangerously behind in the occupant protection category for rear and front seat belts.

Dawn Hollingsworth, the owner of a local driving school, says Virginia's laws keep the roads safer than this study would suggest. But she says if new laws are passed to make roads safer, there are other improvements that have to go hand in hand.

"Over the years budgets have been cut back on law enforcement agencies," Hollingsworth says. "So if we continuously add on laws, we also need to be prepared to fund those law enforcement agencies so they can actually enforce the laws."

She added that laws only help so much and drivers have to choose to make safe choices.

"You don't want to only rely on the laws to keep your new driver safe," Hollingsworth said. "You have to use your own common sense based on your new driver and what their experience is."

With an annual cost of crashes at 242 billion, everyone essentially pays a $784 annual crash tax. according to the study. It says these laws can reduce that cost.

Virginia did make some progress in 2018, according to the study, by adopting the rear facing through age 2 law.