(WFXR) — Even though April — also known as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month — comes to an end this weekend, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) reminds motorists that you should stay focused on your driving every time you get behind the wheel, no matter the time of year.

“Distracted driving is a risky, avoidable behavior that endangers not only drivers, but their passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists and other road users,” said Acting DMV Commissioner Linda Ford, the governor’s highway safety sepresentative. “Focus your full attention on one task: safe driving. Any time you divert your attention from driving, you’re distracted.”

In 2021, more than 20,000 crashes across the Commonwealth were attributed to distracted driving, which resulted in 117 deaths and 11,297 injuries, according to the DMV.

For example, officials tell WFXR News that drivers taking their eyes off the road was the number one cause of distracted driving crashes in Virginia last year. Other top causes of such crashes were cell phone use, looking at roadside incidents, and navigation devices.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving causes 80% of crashes, with one of the most distracting activities involving drivers talking or texting on a cell phone. NHTSA research also indicates texting is the most dangerous type of distracted driving because it combines visual, manual, and cognitive distraction.

As of Jan. 1, 2021, Virginia law prohibits drivers from holding cell phones or any other wireless communication devices while driving. The only exceptions are when the driver has an emergency or when the vehicle is lawfully parked or stopped.

In addition, officials say texting while driving is illegal in Virginia and considered a primary offense. A conviction for texting while driving carries a $125 fine for the first offense, followed by a $250 fine for the second and subsequent offenses.

“Studies have shown that hands-free isn’t risk free,” the DMV said. “Even if the phone isn’t in your hand, there are still dangers involved when drivers do not fully concentrate on the road.”

As a result, the DMV urges you to make a plan to avoid non-driving activities when you behind the wheel:

  • Silence your cell phone or put it out of reach while driving.
  • Enable or download a “do not disturb” app on your phone to block incoming messages or calls while your vehicle is in motion.
  • Change your voicemail to inform any callers that you are currently driving and will get back to them when it is safe to do so.