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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 16, 2007

Media Contacts:
Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Jeff Caldwell
VDOT
(804) 786-2715

Corinne Geller
VSP
(804) 674-2789

This Holiday Season, Will You Be Virginia's Next Traffic Fatality?
State Agencies Challenge Virginians to Help Prevent Highway Deaths This Thanksgiving

RICHMOND-The holiday season brings increased travel on Virginia's highways as millions hit the road for family gatherings, shopping excursions and celebrations. Unfortunately, mixed among the holiday cheer is mourning for the dozens who die in Virginia highway crashes during peak holiday travel periods. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Virginia State Police (VSP) and Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) are challenging motorists to help prevent highway deaths this holiday season with the question, "Are you Virginia's next traffic fatality?"

Highway Safety Challenge logo

More than 900 people are killed on Virginia's highways each year. That is an average of nearly 19 per week, or three per day. During high-traffic holiday periods, those numbers increase with additional traffic, DUIs and increased driver distractions. During the 2006 Thanksgiving weekend in Virginia, State Police worked 1,160 traffic crashes. Fifteen people lost their lives during the four-day statistical counting period.

In 2007, highway deaths are on a dramatic rise. More than 64 additional people have died in highway crashes so far in 2007 than at the same time in 2006. These citizens never imagined that when they turned the key for their trip, it would be the last ride of their lives.

That is why this holiday season, the partners will increase the visibility of Virginia's Highway Safety Challenge by trying to reach motorists on the road to their holiday destinations.

More than 110,000 travelers visit Virginia's Safety Rest Areas and Welcome Centers each day, and that number increases dramatically during peak holiday travel periods. On Nov. 16, the agencies posted messages on VDOT Safety Rest Areas and Welcome Center restroom mirrors to ask each visitor if they realize they, too, could become part of Virginia's highway death toll.

The holiday safe-driving campaign will also include safety messages on VDOT's electronic message signs, Highway Advisory Radio network, radio advertising, 511 Virginia phone and Web service, and other materials to remind motorists to:

  • Buckle up
  • Avoid distractions
  • Share the road
  • Drive drug- and alcohol-free
  • Obey speed limits

Virginia State Police will also increase enforcement for the holidays. During the upcoming holiday weekend, 75 percent of the Virginia State Police workforce will be out across the commonwealth patrolling interstates, and primary and secondary roads.

"There are many things our agencies can do to improve safety from the engineering, enforcement and education standpoint," said VDOT Commissioner David S. Ekern. "Still, there is no more effective tool available to prevent crashes and reduce the risk of injury or death if a crash occurs than changing driver behavior. We must remind everyone in Virginia that they are responsible for their own safety each time they turn the key."

The holiday outreach efforts are part of the Highway Safety Challenge campaign launched in early October. The goal of the campaign is to reach out to drivers to make them realize that highway fatalities are one of the leading causes of death for Virginians, especially those under the age of 30.

"If 1,000 people were killed every year in airline crashes or because of a disease outbreak, would we stand for it?" said Col. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of the Virginia State Police. "Why is it that we have not noticed this nearly 1,000 people dying on Virginia's highways each year? We must take action and stop this disturbing trend."

To find out more about the Highway Safety Challenge, and to find out how to keep from becoming Virginia's next traffic fatality, visit www.safevahighways.org.

(END)

Crash Facts and Statistics

  • As of Nov. 15, 903 people have died on Virginia highways, 64 more than at the same time last year.
  • Crashes are the leading cause of death for Virginians under the age of 30.
  • Not using seat belts contributes to more fatalities than any other safety-related driving behavior.
  • Wearing a seat belt can reduce your risk of dying in a motor vehicle crash by 45 percent in a car, and by as much as 60 percent in a truck or sport utility vehicle.
  • Each year, approximately 38 percent of vehicle-crash deaths involve drinking alcohol.
  • Cars, trucks, pedestrians, bicycles and motorcycles must safely coexist on the roadways. Highway motorcyclist deaths are up 61 percent from last year, and large truck-involved crashes accounted for 118 fatalities in 2006.
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