Drive safely this season

Published 9:46 pm Thursday, November 21, 2019

With Thanksgiving now less than a week away and the winter holiday season approaching after that — and millions of people hitting the roads to parties or home to spend these holidays with loved ones — the Virginia State Police feels it’s a good time to remind folks to drive safely.

It’s always a good message, of course, and one about which the Virginia State Police is very passionate, for obvious reasons. This year, the agency is focusing on reminding people not to drive “intexticated.”

Derived from “intoxicated,” this neologism is one way of reminding folks that texting on their phone, doing other things on their phone or driving distracted in any way can impair their driving skills just as much as, if not more than, driving drunk.

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One advertising campaign making the rounds shows a parent driving with youngsters in the backseat and a beer in their hand. Another panel shows the same photo, but with a cell phone in the parent’s hand. The message is “You don’t do that” — referencing drinking and driving — “so why do this?” — referencing texting while driving.

The point is that while driving drunk is dangerous, many people who would never do so are unknowingly driving just as dangerously by allowing themselves to be distracted while driving. And it’s costing lives.

In Virginia, there were 12 traffic fatalities during the 2018 five-day Thanksgiving statistical counting period and 14 traffic fatalities during the same period in 2017. While not all of those may have been due to distracted drivers, the focus on distracted driving brings attention to a little-discussed topic.

With increased patrols, the state police are also reminding drivers about the Move Over law, which requires motorists to move over or pass cautiously when approaching an emergency vehicle stopped alongside the road.

“The choices you make as a vehicle driver impact not only you and your passengers, but everyone else you happen to be sharing the road with at that given moment,” said Virginia State Police Superintendent, Col. Gary T. Settle. “Avoid distractions, ensure everyone in your vehicle is buckled up, comply with speed limits and never drive drunk. If we drive like every car is filled with our friends and family, we can make sure there are no empty chairs at the Thanksgiving table this year.”