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Virginia Highway Safety Office News Releases

Thursday, November 13, 2008
Media Contact: Melanie Stokes
Department of Motor Vehicles
(804) 367-6623

Virginia Motorists Urged to Be Safe During Thanksgiving
Traffic Deaths Down, But Drivers Should Remain Cautious

RICHMOND - Traffic fatalities in Virginia have decreased by 203 deaths so far this year compared to the same time period in 2007.

"Although we're seeing a drop in roadway deaths, drivers still need to be vigilant, especially with the Thanksgiving holiday approaching," said John Saunders, Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles' (DMV) Virginia Highway Safety Office (VAHSO).

"Thanksgiving is traditionally one of the deadliest times of the year on our highways."

Nineteen people were killed and 768 were injured on Virginia's roads during last year's five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend. "Traffic fatalities and injuries are not just statistics, they represent lost human lives and lost potential," Saunders said.

Of the 1,724 crashes during the 2007 Thanksgiving holiday period, 19 percent involved excessive speeds. The top five driver actions that contributed to these crashes were failure to yield, following too closely, running a traffic control, speeding and improperly changing lanes.

"To reduce needless crashes and deaths, we urge motorists to slow down and allow additional time to get to their destinations," Saunders said. "We know drivers have a better chance of avoiding a crash, injury or even death if they are obeying speed limits."

In an effort to continue to reduce traffic fatalities, the VAHSO works throughout the year with local, non-profit and state organizations that strive to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on the Commonwealth's roadways. The VAHSO awarded more than $13.5 million in federal grant funds this year to support traffic safety programs in Virginia.

Programs receiving grant funds work toward increasing safety belt and child safety seat usage, deterring impaired and aggressive driving, and promoting awareness of risks for teen and senior drivers. For example, one such safety partner is the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), a non-profit organization that operates Checkpoint Strikeforce, a broad-based media campaign supported by high visibility sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols.

Another example is VAHSO's partnership with law enforcement for the periodic Click It or Ticket safety belt enforcement mobilization. DMV also joins with VDOT and the Virginia State Police in Operation Air, Land and Speed, an enforcement effort conducted periodically on Virginia's highways.

"Virginia's safety partners continue to demonstrate their dedication to reducing needless deaths and injuries resulting from traffic crashes," said DMV Commissioner D.B. Smit, the Governor's highway safety representative. "Our goal is to target limited resources to projects that produce the biggest results in saving lives."

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