With the formation of a new task force that the governor called into existence with an executive order late last year, Virginia state lawmakers have made highway safety a major focus. A recent effort to ban cell phone use in vehicles failed last week due to lack of support, but lawmakers have succeeded in imposing tougher penalties for drivers who do not observe the Move Over Law. Details about the task force’s long-term agenda are not available at this time, but its first initiative is on distracted driving.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles has recently released statistics on deadly crashes in Virginia that may serve to guide the task force in setting priorities going forward. The good news in the report, relatively speaking, is that deadly crashes statewide decreased by 4 percent in 2018 compared with the preceding year, with a total of 819 people killed in collisions on Virginia roadways.

However, while the number of people killed in crashes declined overall, crashes due to certain factors showed an increase from 2017 to 2018. For example, fatalities related to alcohol and drunk driving increased by 12 percent. Additionally, 8 percent more pedestrians and 23 percent more teen drivers died in collisions, and speed-related deaths increased by 7 percent.

A volunteer with Mothers Against Drunk Driving lost her father to an alleged drunk driver five years ago. He reportedly died following a stay in the burn unit that lasted two months. The driver involved had a history of multiple previous DUI convictions.

There are always alternatives to driving oneself home after drinking, such as calling a rideshare service or using a designated driver. However, those who do face DUI charges may find it advantageous to contact an attorney.