The following Letter to the Editor was originally published by the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday, September 15, 2020:
Letter to the Editor, Sept. 16, 2020: Action needed to reduce aggressive driving
As a Virginia resident and mother of a teenager whom I’m trying to teach how to drive safely, I greatly appreciated Opinions Editor Pamela Stallsmith’s recent editorial, “Driving during COVID-19: What’s the rush?” calling on drivers to slow down on our state’s roadways. I have witnessed firsthand the reckless driving that has become more common since the start of the pandemic. As a novice driver, my daughter has been on the receiving end of impatient motorists honking and trying to get around us at intersections while she waited for pedestrians to cross and tailgating as she obeyed the speed limit. Even displaying the telltale yellow “student driver” magnet does not always deter this irresponsible behavior.
Dangerous driving that increases the chances of causing a crash or someone ending up in a hospital is never a good choice, and it especially is egregious while hospitals are busy and concerns about contagion remain high. Yet as Stallsmith’s editorial and numerous articles from across the country make clear, our roadways have become racetracks. Traffic fatality rates are up even as the number of vehicle miles traveled remains down.
I urge lawmakers to prioritize proven countermeasures to prevent needless crash deaths and injuries. Legislation to upgrade our seat belt law was considered earlier this year and should be at the top of the list for action in 2021. The General Assembly’s effort to allow speed cameras in school and work zones was a step in the right direction, and the use of this effective, neutral enforcement technology should be expanded.
In the meantime, motorists should ease up on the gas pedal and be patient with new drivers. It is more important to arrive safely than sooner.
Cathy Chase, President, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety