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Virginia drivers urged to take safety precautions

8/8/2013, 11:55 a.m.
DMV is alerting drivers of old dangers and new rules of the road.
DMV is urging all Virginia drivers to never leave children in vehicles and to call 911 if they see an unattended child.

As another Virginia summer reaches its hottest point, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is reminding drivers of old dangers and new rules of the road. Safety is important in every season, and summer is no exception.

Warmer air temperatures can lead to dangerously hot conditions for passengers. DMV urges all Virginians to never leave children or the elderly unattended in vehicles, and to call 911 if they see an unattended child or older person in a vehicle. During warm weather, the inside of a vehicle can reach 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even when parked in the shade. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), a child dies from heatstroke about once every 10 days from being left alone in a hot vehicle. Children are at a high risk since their bodies heat up three to five times faster than adults.

It’s not just human passengers who are susceptible; dogs and cats cannot perspire and can only dispel heat by panting and through the pads of their feet. Pets left in hot cars even briefly can suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke, brain damage and can even die.

DMV stresses that distracted driving is dangerous and potentially deadly. Virginia’s new texting while driving law is meant to combat this risky behavior. As of July 1, texting while driving is a primary offense with increased penalties. Texting or reading text messages while driving is illegal for all drivers, no matter their age. Previously, texting while driving was a secondary offense and could only be charged when the offender was stopped for another, separate offense.

Lastly, drivers should wear safe footwear that does not have an open heel such as flip-flops or sandals because these types of shoes can slip off and wedge under accelerator or brake pedals. High-heeled shoes can also be problematic; heels can get caught in or under floor mats and delay accelerating or braking when needed. Driving in bare feet, socks, or stockings can also be dangerous causing your feet to slip off the gas or brake pedals. Sneakers or low heel flat shoes are encouraged.

“The safety of Virginians on the road is a top priority for DMV,” said DMV Commissioner Richard D. Holcomb, the Governor’s Highway Safety Representative. “Keeping pets and kids out of hot cars, avoiding distracted driving, and safe footwear- these are all messages that every driver should heed this summer and all year round.”